Over the past three years, Sixth Former Jay Crowther has led an impressive athletic career, heading the roster of the Inter-Ac’s best tennis team. As a Fourth Former, he earned numerous accolades from both the school and the league itself. However, as the season came to a close, Crowther suffered an injury to his finger.
Unsure if he would ever play the sport again, Crowther started brainstorming ways to keep tennis in his life. That summer, he founded the Main Line Tennis Academy (MLTA), a non-profit aimed to raise money for kids with special needs and share Crowther’s love of tennis.
“My great-uncle is a quadriplegic, and I have a tennis friend who works in the Special Olympics,” Crowther said. “Special needs kids require different sorts of inclusive activity during the summer and even during the school year, and during the pandemic, I felt like that was kind of put on the back burner for a lot of places. So my mentality was, if there was a need for something, I’m going to be the solution.”
Having found a new way to experience tennis, Crowther was eager to hit the ground running. He began by working with the Champions Club, a program run by Learning Specialist Mr. Stephen Cloran and his wife Ms. Kath Cloran, that works with kids with special needs. After establishing Main Line Tennis Academy and building personal connections with his students, Crowther sought to expand his reach.
“I got to travel across the country to give lessons and work with special needs kids. I went to Florida and did a week where I coached autistic children. Then, I went to Turkey and, once again, worked with a special needs club.”
After a successful summer, Crowther was unable to spend as much time on MLTA during the school year. However, as his junior year came to a close, he was eager to resume his initiative, working with Germantown Academy junior Armen Meinstein.
“Armen, who’s MLTA’s Vice President, and I ran two massive fundraisers this [past summer] and we raised well over $5,000. We’re going to be donating a total of $6,000 to Silifke Tennis Club and PALS,” Crowther said. “The first fundraiser was called ‘Tennis for Turkey,’ which was just a tennis tournament where we raised money with the entrance fees, as well as other donations. We ended up raising over $2,000 just from that first fundraiser.”
Despite all his success, running a non-profit organization came with a fair share of difficulties.
“The issue arose when applying for 501(c)(3) status. We found out that by donating money to a foreign organization, we would violate one of the terms to apply. Instead of donating from MLTA, I decided to match the $2,000 from my own pocket to Silifke Tennis Club,” Crowther said. “We then donated the $2,000 physically raised from the tournament to PALS.”
Crowther’s initiative has received recognition from many businesses, earning sponsorships from Legacy Tennis Center, Lifetime Athletics in King of Prussia, and the United States Tennis Association (USTA). Recognizing the importance of MLTA to kids all over the world, Crowther looks to maintain the organization’s legacy.
“Armen is a junior at Germantown Academy, so after I graduate, we have a President who’s in the grade below,” Crowther said. “Obviously, in college, I’ll have to have more of a hands-off role, but I’ll still make sure it’s heading in the direction that I had originally envisioned.”
Although his focus has primarily been on helping kids with special needs develop a love for tennis, Crowther believes the organization has transitively impacted the local Inter-Ac community.
“In an athletic conference like ours, it’s always been beat them instead of work with them. I think MLTA is a really strong cause and a good concept for people to come together and unite like we’ve had [with the previous fundraisers],” Crowther said. “When I started this, I wasn’t sure what the vision was. I wasn’t sure about a lot of things. But, as I continued to work on it, I really grew to love it and it’s become something meaningful to me.”