KEAUHOU — Using tennis, authentic Filipino food, raffles and impressive sponsors, FilAm Tennis Hawaii once again served up its fun-filled charity tennis tournament.
The 13th annual tournament on center court this weekend at the Holua Tennis Center in Keauhou raises funds for West Hawaii seniors looking to attend college. It’s already the largest non-sanctioned United States Tennis Association tournament in Hawaii, and it is continuing to grow exponentially over the years.
“When we started, we only had 60 players,” said FilAm founder Lovette Llantos. “The tournament has now grown to almost 200. We now have players from Oahu, the mainland and the Big Island.”
As the years have gone on, the amount of support garnered by FilAm has also grown.
“It is amazing to see over the years just how much support we have gotten from our community,” said Jane Clement, president of the Kona Visayan Club, the nonprofit organization that helps run the scholarship funding. “This has really allowed us to raise a lot of money for our scholarship program.”
They also served authentic Filipino dishes such as adobo and pancit on the opening day of the tournament — which, according to Clement, is a huge draw. FilAm Tennis Hawaii also gives away $8,000 annually to graduating seniors.
“It is a wonderful opportunity for the kids,” said Hilo High School women’s tennis coach and second-year FilAm player Wayne Yamada. “Nowadays, kids do not have as much opportunity. Any chance we have to give back to the kids, we are always jumping to the gun. For us, that is No. 1. We always love giving back, especially when it is a scholarship for our tennis players. That is even better.”
Another goal of the tournament is also to simply promote the sport itself.
“This is really for promoting tennis in West Hawaii, especially for our junior players,” Llantos said. “They are the future of our tennis here.”
While plenty of younger players took part, matches are for more than just keiki and high school players. Adults also picked up the racquets, which gave them the chance to test their skills against the younger generation.
“For us as adults, we do not get an opportunity to play these kind of tournaments where it is everybody together,” said Yamada. “It is fun for us to try and see if we can compete with the younger kids. …We do not always get a chance to play against them. We coach them and they get to play against each other. This is a super good opportunity to play against the juniors and for us to test ourselves.”
Despite the amount of food, raffles and other activities, one of the main aspects that many players have in common is their love of the community that FilAm creates.
“The FilAm tournament brings a lot of people together,” said first-year contender Cade Taniyama. “It brings people from across the state. I feel very honored to be here and play along with friends and coaches. It is really something special…I think this is something that I want to do more frequently. I am kind of sad that I only started doing this recently, because this is such an amazing community that I am glad to be a part of.”
On Saturday morning, Taniyama won the Las Vegas raffle that was part of the fundraiser. But due to age restrictions, the prize, which includes a week-long stay in a luxury resort in either Las Vegas or West Hawaii, was passed on to his mother.
The tournament is sponsored by organizations such as the Hawaii Community Foundation, KTA Superstores and Kona Auto Center. It resumes at 8 a.m. today.