Each Tuesday and Thursday at the Grain Valley Community Center, a tight knit family of friends come together in the afternoon to play pickleball. On the court, it’s serious business, but off the court these friends say they’re a family. On Thursday, the group of friends celebrated a special birthday for one of their own.
Erika Davis turns 95 on Saturday, and a cake and decorations welcomed her as she arrived ready to play.
Davis joked she was actually turning 59. “I was 49 for many years, but now I’m 59,” Davis said.
Joe Thomas, who has played pickleball at the Center for many years, said Erika’s family has planned a party for her this weekend, but they felt the need to celebrate as well.
“We all said, we’re a family, let’s have one of our own,” Thomas said.
Thomas taught his grandson, who is now at West Point, to play pickleball and ping pong.
“Now I can’t beat him at either one. He told me, ‘Well, you did too good a job at teaching me’,” Thomas said.
As Davis chatted with fellow teammates, Patti Garrett and Michelle Rollins marveled at Davis.
Garrett, a retired school bus driver, plays nearly every day at either the Community Center or the Blue Springs Fieldhouse.
“She is such an inspiration to all of us. At 70, I want to continue to play pickleball for the next 25 years,” Garrett said.
Pickleball’s increasing popularity comes from the quickness in which it can be learned, the fast paced nature of the game, and its accessibility to players of all ages.
“It can get very serious, but it is fun. Several of us have had busted wrists, busted heads,” Garrett joked. “But when we do get knocked down, we all come together to take care of each other.”
Rollins agreed. “We are like family. When someone is out injured or sick, we all come together. One person says, ‘I’ll come over and take out the trash.’ Another says, ‘I’ll be the one to walk the dog.’ It’s as much about the camaraderie as it is the game.”
While it is a tight-knit group, and game time is serious business, both Garrett and Rollins are quick to say that new members are always welcome and everyone there is willing to teach newbies the sport.
Pickleball is held Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:00pm – 3:00pm at the Community Center, 713 Main. It is $2 per participant, and free for Silver Sneakers, Silver & Fit, and Renew Active members.
For more information on all the senior activities offered at the Community Center, visit www.cityofgrainvalley.org or call 816-847-6230.
Erika Davis (center in orange pickleball shirt) is greeted by friends for an impromptu birthday celebration. Davis turns 95 this weekend and plays pickleball at the Community Center twice a week.
Photo credit: Valley News staff
Erika Davis (fourth from left) celebrates her 95th birthday with her pickleball family on Thursday afternoon. Photo credit: Patti Garrett
Davis in the midst of a pickleball game. Photo credit: Patti Garrett