The Biola Women’s Tennis program hosted cancer patients from the Children’s Hospital of Orange County (C.H.O.C.) in honor of Children’s Cancer Awareness Month at the Biola Tennis Center on Sunday, September 20, 2009.

Biola women's tennis Head Coach Dee Henry spearheaded the event that brought a group of children who had lost limbs to cancer with the goal of giving the kids an opportunity to learn tennis and develop their skills with Biola’s varsity athletes.

Biola welcomed the kids onto campus for the first time this year after hosting the event at Santa Ana College last year. The change of scenery gives the children the opportunity to use Biola equipment and practice on collegiate tennis courts while interacting with the school’s student athletes.

The idea came about a year and a half ago, when Henry visited C.H.O.C. and met cancer survivor Jenee Areeckal, a social worker for the children. As Areeckal was battling through chemotherapy, a friend suggested she spend an afternoon with Henry playing tennis at Biola.

The two connected a short time later and played for hours.

“She said, ‘This was an amazing experience that brought normality back to my life,’” Henry said of their conversation walking off of the court. “She wanted to do something like that for her kids for the hospital.”

Henry says that last year’s event served as an introduction to tennis for most of the kids and, with a very similar group of kids this year, they were able to build and develop the basic skills that they had taught.

According to Henry, the four varsity players that helped to put on the event last year were a deciding factor in doing it again.

“At the end of the year,” Henry says, “Every one of my girls said working with the patients from C.H.O.C. was the most amazing experience they had all year.”

With wristbands from the USTA and sunscreen from the American Cancer Society, Biola hit the court with the C.H.O.C. patients in what Henry hopes will become a yearly occurrence.

“A part of tennis is giving back,” Henry says. “We have been given skills and abilities and investing those in others is very pleasing to God.”

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Written by Tim Slack, Athletics.