To honor the legacy of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Santa Barbara Special Olympics will present the first Regional Tennis Classic this Saturday, Sept. 25.

Santa Barbara Special Olympics tennis players from Santa Barbara and northern Santa Barbara areas will compete in a doubles competition starting with opening ceremonies at 9 a.m. at the Municipal Tennis Court Stadium. Athlete competition will begin at 10 a.m.

ESK Day unites athletes and the community to promote the three components of EKS Day — play, build and join.

Shriver is credited with starting Special Olympics at a time when there were no special-education classes and no Americans with Disabilities Act. She pioneered the belief that people with intellectual disabilities can play sports, compete and become productive, respected members of the community.

A unique aspect of the Regional Tennis Classic competition involves building unity. Local tennis players will team up with athletes in a “Unified” doubles competition. Unified competition blends the best of the athletes’ skills with a doubles partner who competes on a tennis team or plays locally. Athletes enjoy the inclusive matches while the community appreciates the courage and skill the athletes show.

Cathy Ann Simon, executive director of the Santa Barbara Tennis Patrons, and the games management team of sports manager Ashley Haug, tennis coach Sue McCue, volunteers Jerry Siegel and Lori Haden, and athlete coach Steve Glick are organizing the event.

The tournament is sponsored by Santa Barbara Tennis Patrons, and the matches will be held at Santa Barbara Municipal Tennis Courts at Old Coast Highway and Park Place in Santa Barbara.

The public is invited to volunteer or cheer in support of the participating athletes. For more volunteer information, contact Ashley Haug at 805.884.1516 or

The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and experience joy. Special Olympics empowers participants to become productive, respected members of the community.

To sponsor an event or make a donation, click here or contact regional director Sara Spataro at

— Sara Spataro is regional director of Special Olympics Santa Barbara.