#PrepareatPeace | An Ace On and Off the Court: Meet Alumna, Lou Taft Welch ’84
Lou Taft Welch ’84 has always had quite the presence on the tennis court, but one could argue that her impact off the court is just as measurable. Welch dedicates her life to ensuring that the sport that has defined so much of her life remains accessible to anyone who wants to play, regardless of ability, means or background, as the Executive Director for the Abilities Tennis Association of North Carolina (ATANC).
To say that WPU is proud is an understatement – and our University isn’t alone in being impressed.
In fact, Welch and her work at the Abilities Tennis Association of North Carolina were awarded the 2018 United States Tennis Association (USTA) National Adaptive Tennis Community Service Award at the US Open on September 3rd, 2018. The USTA annually bestows this recognition upon a program or program leader that has demonstrated continued excellence, dedication, and service in tennis for an adaptive tennis community. In the official release of award by USTA, Craig Morris, Chief Executive of USTA, stated: “Abilities Tennis Association of North Carolina continues to strengthen the building blocks for the future of their athletes. Abilities Tennis provides over 350 participants with the opportunity to learn not only the game of tennis but to also learn about themselves, be part of a team and grow and succeed on and off the court.”
This recognition comes as no surprise to those who have seen the impact that Welch and Abilities Tennis Association has had throughout North Carolina. ATANC provides programming opportunities through tennis camps, clinics, and tournaments year-round to those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Working with more than 350 athletes, hosting six tournaments and 17 clinics a year, ATANC partners with local organization and schools throughout the state to provide tennis programs. ATANC prides itself on offering all of the programs free of charge. Donations, fundraisers, and grants through NC Tennis and USTA allow ATANC to serve their athletes and families.
This is what Welch is most excited about, merely making tennis accessible to anyone who wants to play.
“I would definitely say a lot of my confidence comes from my time at Peace and the friendships I built there.”
“Providing tennis programs for the athletes and their families is a rewarding endeavor. When I see the happiness that tennis brings to our athletes, I feel that my job is allowing people to improve their overall well-being,” Welch says.
Welch’s passion for tennis grew during her time at Peace, where she said as a student-athlete, she made a lot of valuable connections and prepared herself for life beyond 15 E. Peace Street. It was here she met Kelly Key Gaines ‘82, a fellow Peace College tennis player and lifelong friend of Welch’s. Gaines, who now serves as the Executive Director of the USTA in North Carolina, was the connection that got Welch back into tennis in such a big way.
“Kelly has been an incredible friend to me over the past years and a joy to work with. She is passionate about what she does, and it shows.” Welch continued, “I’m grateful for this position because it has allowed me to do meaningful and fulfilling work in my community. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Last fall, Peace welcomed Gaines and Welch back onto their old stomping ground for one last game on the courts that helped craft both a lifelong friendship and a passion for the sport. Joined by Gaines’ niece, Hannah, these Peace girls celebrated a love of the game that has lasted long beyond their time at Peace all while showing off some pretty impressive skills. Welch credits a lot of her success to the experiences that she had while at Peace. “I would definitely say a lot of my confidence comes from my time at Peace and the friendships I built there,” she says. Welch, a dedicated alumna, currently serves on the WPU Alumni Board Volunteer Committee as a way to give back to her alma mater, stay connected with her classmates and lifelong friends, and serve the current generation of Peace students.
Welch’s legacy of giving and her passion for her sport lives on in every single athlete and family she comes across, and she is excited for all still to come.
Today, the ATANC continues to provide accessible tennis programming to local communities and are gearing up for another big season. They have multiple tennis clinics, play days and programs coming up this fall – including their Footprints on the Court fundraiser on October 18, and the 12th Annual Abilities Tennis Association of North Carolina’s Winter Chill Tennis Tournament hosted by NCSU on December 7. For more information on Lou Welch and all of the work that she and the rest of the ATANC organization are doing visit their website at www.atanc.org.