Every year, members of the Westminster Canterbury on the Chesapeake Bay table tennis team, The W.C. Pongers, come over to Seatack Elementary School An Achievable Dream Academy. They spend time together with the students during their P.E. class, and the Pongers teach students the mechanics and fun of table tennis.
Students and residents alike look forward to their time together; however, last year, when the residents came over, there was one small hiccup.
“We had one table and all the children sitting on the floor, waiting their turn,” said Jean Corletto, chair of the W.C. Pongers.
Seeing the fun the students were having and wanting to have as many children as possible involved, Corletto went back to Westminster Canterbury and asked the whole community to help.
“I said, ‘There’s a lot of children over there and the really need another table,’” Corletto said. “And, this is the result. Isn’t that great?”
The result was a full gym of students Friday morning, being presented a brand new ping pong table thanks to the Westminster residents. And, to help celebrate the gift, the WC Pongers reached out to organizers of the Ping Pong for Charity tournament, which is held annually in Virginia Beach and raises funds for the Alzheimer’s Association, PiN, Vanguard Landing and I Need A Lighthouse.
Ping Pong for Charity brought in Greek National Table Tennis Champion Ioanna Papadimitriou and US Olympic Festival Gold Medalist Kim Gilbert to break in the new table. In addition, National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame Inductee Christian Laettner, who takes part in the annual event, was also on hand.
Throughout the morning, students were invited up to play with Papadimitriou, Gilbert and Laettner and get tips on how to build their game.
It was an exciting day for students and staff alike.
“I really wanted to be an international player myself,” Seatack principal Vince Darby told the students in the gym. “I thought I had the skills.”
He was able to put those skills to the test later as Gilbert brought him out to demonstrate some foundational moves of table tennis, much to the children’s delight.
For Darby, the donation from Westminster Canterbury goes much further than having more participants during a PE activity. He believes the Pongers are giving the students a glimpse of new worlds of opportunity – the chance to take on a new challenge and prove to themselves they can do it.
“Every day when our children see that table, that’s a reference point for them: ‘I can do this. I can play this. This is something I can do.’”