| By Michael Sarro

The beautiful tennis courts at Crotona Park in the Bronx held the EmblemHealth Bronx Open, a USTA Pro Circuit event. The women's only, professional tennis tournament played in New York City just prior to the U.S. Open, brings together top women professional tennis players from around the world to compete for $50,000 in prize money.

Proceeds from the EmblemHealth Bronx Open benefit the New York Junior Tennis League (NYJTL), which provides free tennis services to 100,000 underserved youth each year.

The week-long tournament kicked off with the New York City Police Department vs. the New York City Fire Department Tennis Championships. It was the kids turn to take part in the festivities on Thursday of the event. Starting at 11:00 a.m., many participants of the NYJTL took part in a Disney Kids Around the World Day Parade. All the different NYJTL chapters took part in the parade, brandishing elaborate banners depicting what makes tennis so special to them. While walking with their peers, each different group was chanting songs and dancing in the parade. At the end of the parade route, the kids were brought onto the main court where there was some high quality entertainment. Children were treated to a special musical dance performance by Helen Butleroff, a former Rockette and certified Dietician/Nutritionist, with a supporting cast of Broadway singers and dancers teaching the children the benefits of healthy eating. The songs they sang were about eating healthy, living healthy, being active and having fun with life! The words to the songs were over upbeat music which got the kids up and dancing and made them more attentive to what the performers were saying.

After the entertainment was over, the kids took to the courts and participated in the President's Challenge Physical Fitness Test which included events such as sprinting, standing broad jump, V-sit or sit & reach, sit-ups, and shuttle run with ball pick-up. There were also QuickStart courts set up for free lessons and matches provided by the NYJTL. After all this activity, the kids finally got a chance to relax by watching some high quality professional tennis.

This is one of many recent events pairing tennis and health. Tennis is being used to get kids active, healthy, and teaching them a great sport they can play for a lifetime.