Maple Grove resident Colleen Hazen is the oldest of seven children and she never played organized sports. So Hazen had an epiphany when her own two children, Andy and Katie, began playing competitive tennis several years ago at Maple Grove Junior High School. She quickly discovered how much parental effort goes into helping athletic teams raise money for necessary equipment, uniforms, awards and banquets.
By the time Hazen’s kids began playing tennis at Maple Grove High School, those tennis teams had reached nearly 50 boys and over 50 girls practicing on eight tennis courts. A lack of windscreens around the courts at that time added to the difficulty of successful tennis practices and matches. And like all other sports-related equipment, windscreens cost money. “I had no idea how to raise money,” Hazen says. “But I decided I could do it.”
Hazen began fundraising and creating photo slide shows for the high school tennis booster club. An initial goal was to raise enough money for windscreens and courtside and player benches for spectators to view matches. Hazen’s daughter Katie pitched in by designing the benches as a Girl Scout Silver Award project. The team helped assemble and paint the benches.
But windscreens were a bigger job. Fencing around the courts would first need reinforcement. “Randy Ronning, a tennis coach from Elk River, came and helped me understand what needed to be done,” Hazen says. “But I didn’t know how to operate the equipment. So I gathered knowledgeable people to help dig postholes and fill them with concrete. Wheelbarrows were in action during a boys’ tennis match!”
Her involvement helped Hazen learn a thing or two about fundraising and grant writing. And success fueled visions of larger projects. Next, Hazen wanted to help build a team storage building near the tennis courts. That project would require raising $23,000—more than double the funds raised for the windscreens, and a collaboration of volunteer efforts unlike anything Hazen had organized before.
The booster club began collecting fees from player families and asked parents to write letters about the importance of the project. Team members bagged groceries, hosted pancake breakfasts and washed cars to raise money. Meanwhile, Hazen investigated every potential source of funding. “Local non-profits, the United States Tennis Association and some national businesses like Wal-Mart have money set aside for donating to local causes,” Hazen says. “I just had to learn who to ask and how to apply for funding.”
Building the storage building was another successful demonstration of the power of collaboration. Hazen reached out to a builder named Mitch Brotherton who once sat next to her during their children’s tennis drills at Daytona Golf Club in Dayton. Brotherton referred Hazen to a roofer who could match the building’s roof to the roof of the school building. Anchor Block Products provided discounted concrete blocks in a discontinued color. And the Osseo Area Schools helped Hazen with contracts and setting up payment plans to contractors. The district also moved a sprinkler pipe and provided the necessary electrical work. The building was completed in 2007.
Hazen’s children have since graduated from Maple Grove High School. And Hazen has moved on from the high school booster club to establish the Maple Grove Crimson Tennis Association, a non-profit community tennis association founded in 2005. “MGCTA is an organization dedicated to growing the sport of tennis,” Hazen says. “We host tennis tournaments to raise money and offer opportunities for players to enjoy the sport.”
Hazen hopes to encourage more young players with tennis demonstrations during local fairs or at Maple Grove Days. “Tennis was so good for my kids,” says Hazen. “I’d love to see more tennis courts and more tennis tournaments in Maple Grove so the sport can continue to grow.”
Grants for the tennis building project were provided by:
United States Tennis Association
Knife River Partners in the Parks
Maple Grove Lions Club
Maple Grove Women of Today