Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Avila raises a racket to help children

Avila, one of Hillsborough's most noted communities, conjures up visions of spectacular houses, perfectly manicured lawns and towering oaks draped in Spanish moss.

Some, however, see a different picture. They associate Avila, where a security guard is always on duty at the gate, with an air of elite detachment.

Elite detachment?

It's my fancy way of saying hoity-toity.

Avila resident Mark Nouss has heard the connotation before but wants you to know that his neighborhood does have a heart. In fact, it will hold the 18th annual Avila Charity Tennis Tournament this weekend, hoping to meet or surpass the $80,000 mark for the fourth consecutive year.

It's a fun event for the neighbors, many of whom participate. Although the caliber of tennis rates high, with eight professionals involved in play, Nouss said irreverence permeates the overall atmosphere.

"Heckling is sort of encouraged," joked Nouss, the event chairman.

Residents don't joke about the effort that goes into staging the tournament or the sense of community motivating their efforts. The tournament started in the 1990s, but it really took off six years ago when neighbors took a more active role in the planning.

The transition to a completely community-run tournament began with residents choosing the charity. It had to be local and it had to be a nonprofit that benefits children and makes a big impact. Past recipients include the Tampa Marine Institute and Joshua House.

"It's a heart-wrenching process because the money involved is significant to a lot of people," Nouss said. "Everything is worthy out there. When you talk about kids, there's rarely a charity that doesn't rip your heartstrings out when you hear their story."

For the next two years, Mary Lee's House serves as the beneficiary. The one-stop, state-of-the-art child protection and advocacy center in West Tampa allows children who need to be assessed to be treated under one roof in a friendly environment.

Space is shared by different agencies such as the Child Protection Team and the Children's Advocacy Center, as well as law enforcement, prosecutors and public defenders, but it's designed with children in mind.

Avila residents behind the tournament made an emotional visit to the center, which serves 300 children a month.

"I think they were shocked at how prevalent child abuse is in our area, because it is a much more frequent occurrence than any of us would ever imagine," said Nouss, who is on the board of directors.

"There was some real appreciation for the groups that are assembled over there."

One community member assembled a team to help stock the facility's clothes closet for abused children. Such heartfelt gestures have not gone unnoticed. Nor has the hard work involved in putting together the tournament.

"It's heartwarming to watch people like this work this hard," said the center's executive director, Lisa Colen. "Their motivation is so sincere it's almost overwhelming. If you look at what they've done to prepare for this event, I haven't seen anything like it."

Even in a difficult economy, the time and effort have added up to some impressive numbers. It has raised more than $370,000 for charities over the past five years, including $260,000 in the past three.

"I just don't know of another charity, not run by a corporate entity or charity, raising that kind of money," Nouss said. "We're just a group of knuckleheads sitting around and saying let's try to do something nice for somebody."

To learn more about Mary Lee's House or to make a donation, go to maryleeshouse.org.

That's all I'm saying.

Avila raises a racket to help children 03/18/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:47pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trump sprinkles political attacks into Scout Jamboree speech

    GLEN JEAN, W.Va. — Ahead of President Donald Trump's appearance Monday at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, the troops were offered some advice on the gathering's official blog: Fully hydrate. Be "courteous" and "kind." And avoid the kind of divisive chants heard during the 2016 campaign such as "build …

    President Donald Trump addresses the Boy Scouts of America's 2017 National Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel National Scout Reserve in Glen Jean, W.Va., July 24, 2017. [New York Times]
  2. Trump, seething about attorney general, speculates about firing Sessions, sources say

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has spoken with advisers about firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as he continues to rage against Sessions' decision to recuse himself from all matters related to the Russia investigation.

  3. John McCain to return to Senate for health care vote

    WASHINGTON — The Senate plans to vote Tuesday to try to advance a sweeping rewrite of the nation's health-care laws with the last-minute arrival of Sen. John McCain — but tough talk from President Donald Trump won no new public support from skeptical GOP senators for the flagging effort that all but …

  4. Last orca calf born in captivity at a SeaWorld park dies

    Tourism

    ORLANDO — The last killer whale born in captivity under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program died Monday at the company's San Antonio, Texas, park, SeaWorld said.

    Thet orca Takara helps guide her newborn, Kyara, to the water's surface at SeaWorld San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas, in April. Kyara was the final killer whale born under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program. The Orlando-based company says 3-month-old Kyara died Monday. [Chris Gotshall/SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment via AP]
  5. Blake Snell steps up, but Rays lose to Orioles anyway (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell stepped up when he had to Monday and delivered an impressive career-high seven-plus innings for the Rays. That it wasn't enough in what ended up a 5-0 loss to the Orioles that was their season-high fifth straight is symptomatic of the mess they are in right now.

    Tim Beckham stands hands on hips after being doubled off first.