Sometimes when you lose, you win.
Local tennis pro Karl Hale discovered that after playing two tough sets against Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli in Jamaica last month. The benefit match raised over $20,000 for Hale’s Helping Hands Jamaica Foundation, which will build five new schools for kindergarten-age students across the island this summer.
Bartoli, who won the 2013 singles title at Wimbledon, is famous for her two-handed, take-no-prisoners play.
“She’s a unique player, and a unique personality,” said Hale, who, as tournament director for the Rogers Cup, has known Bartoli for years.
“She doesn’t like to rally – she likes to finish points quickly.”
True to form, Bartoli took the first set 6-3. The match was called after she and Hale tied 2-2 in the second.
For Jamaican tennis fans watching on live TV or from the stands in Montego Bay, the match was a rare chance to see Bartoli play – the French star retired shortly after her big win at Wimbledon.
Bartoli did play a little tennis while touring Jamaica with Hale last year. It was just a friendly rally, but Bartoli faced a lightning-fast opponent: Usain Bolt.
“Usain doesn’t play tennis, but as you can imagine, he’s a tremendous athlete, so his aptitude for it was pretty good,” said Hale, who arranged the match. “Those top athletes, they just love to learn from each other.”
Big-name athletes like Bartoli also like to support Helping Hands, a charity co-founded by Hale 10 years ago.
By the end of the year, the organization will have built a dozen new schools across Jamaica.
Each school has its own kitchen, and separate classrooms that make learning a lot easier than in older, single-room schools.
“It has a huge impact, not only for the school, but for the community,” said Hale, who was born in Jamaica and played for 10 years on the country’s Davis Cup team.
Helping Hands also organizes trips for people who want to do some of the school-building work themselves. Recent volunteers include Kardinal Offishall, a Juno-winning rapper and record executive who was born to Jamaican parents in Scarborough.
It’s life-changing, said Hale, both for the families who use the schools, and for volunteers.
“There’s a special bond created when you’re doing something so good for a community,” he said.
On June 14, Helping Hands will organize its largest fundraiser of the year – a 5 km benefit walk along the beaches boardwalk to a Jamaican-themed lunch at the Balmy Beach Club.