For the first time in its 18-year history, the Norwalk Grassroots program is teaming up with the Darien High School tennis teams for a tennis jamboree on Sunday, May 19, to benefit the Norwalk program.

"We use tennis as a platform for at-risk kids to improve their lives," said Tom Heckel, president of Norwalk Grassroots. "Tennis gives kids different kinds of opportunities and teaches different skills, like rules and etiquette."

During the jamboree, members of the varsity and junior varsity teams will participate in team building games for two hours on the court.

"It's a good volunteer opportunity to become introduced to the organization," said John Schmidt, a member of the Grassroots advisory board.

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The nonprofit organization was founded in 1995 as a way of providing opportunities to economically disadvantaged children and teenagers of Fairfield County in a safe and encouraging environment, according to the organization's website. Year-round tutoring and support is provided by volunteers to the 300 annual participants.

The program is part of the Southern Connecticut Alliance for Inner City Tennis and Education -- founded by Art Goldblatt, Harlan Stone and Alex Seaver -- which supports initiatives in Stamford, Norwalk, Bridgeport, New Haven and Danbury.

During the summer months, tennis is played on the courts that were constructed -- at the confusion of the founders of the Grassroots organization -- at the Norwalk Housing Authority. During the winter, instruction takes place at indoor clubs like Kings Highway Tennis Club in Darien, New Canaan Racquet Club, Weston Racquet Club and Four Seasons Racquet Club in Wilton

"It will be more of a carnival and not a structured match," said Rob Neuner, the Darien boys' tennis coach, of the jamboree.

Throughout the day, there will be games on the courts, such as King of the Court. The cost is $20 per student/

The event is a way to raise awareness for the Grassroots Club, which draws volunteers from Darien and surrounding Lower Fairfield County towns.

"The more volunteers we have, the more money we are able to receive," said Heckel.

Currently, Norwalk Grassroots primarily operates during the summer when outdoor courts are available, but there is a desire to work more throughout the winter months. However, reserving indoor space is expensive, Heckel said.

Players who volunteer with the Grassroots program spend time with the Norwalk students playing tennis, as well as tutoring them.

The program is free for the students. Money is raised through donations and fundraisers such as the Play in May event, which has raised more than $500,000 for the charity.

mspicer@bcnnew.com;203-972-4407;@Meg_DarienNews