WTXL ABC27 will feature a different African American icon every Tuesday night at 6 and 11 p.m. through the month of February.
TALLAHASSEE, Fl. (WTXL) - She prefers to play doubles, but in real life, Lois Carrington is a team player. A few years ago she began sharing her love of tennis with children in the projects.
"That's a beautiful area and it's kind of a captive audience right there," says Carrington, describing the Macon County Housing Project in Tallahassee. "Nobody has to bus them in or mom have to get off from work or anything like that, so that's where we want to be."
It all started when her father gave her a tennis racquet after graduating from high school, that's when she taught herself how to play. But her passion for the game was benched when she was served with a host of responsibilities, including a career and a family of her own. She didn't pick up the racquet again until she was 27 and hasn't put it down since.
"As African American kids, we're not really used to tennis," laughs Carrington, "We were baseball, football, basketball, those kids of things, but this tennis thing, if one will learn, its a great thing."
It wasn't until 2009 that Lois met her biggest match, breast cancer.
"That gave me a wake up call that life is short and you have to do something, you have to, not only is it short, but it has to be meaningful, not only to you but for others. So that helped me to want to mentor and help people," said Carrington.
A year later after finishing her cancer treatments, Lois became a volunteer tennis teacher at Walker Ford Community Center. But last year, she found her true calling, coaching children in the Macon County Housing Project, some who had never even picked up a tennis racket.
"A friend of mine asked me to teach her tennis," recalls Carrington, "So we went out to the Macon community and we were playing and all of these kids started coming out, looked like out of the wood works, and they said that they wanted to play."
The program is catching on.
"I was afforded the opportunity to circuit ride playgrounds and centers this summer, so got about 300 to 400 kids altogether," says Carrington.
And it's making a difference in the lives of those kids.
"Most of all it gives them confidence that they can do something and that they are special," replies Carrington. "It teaches you how to get along with others, how to encourage others if you're going to play doubles."
And teaching the kids has taught Lois life lessons.
"I tell my husband, I feel so much alive," said Carrington. "I might fee tired when I get home, but when I get out there playing with them, the little girl comes out!"
As an African American Icon, she feels its her responsibility to continue serving the community, and her efforts are paying off.
This past August, Carrington received a grant from the USTA Florida for children's tennis rackets, low-compression balls and short-court nets to further the program.
Read More About Local African American Icons:
You could call it a family tradition. More than 10 members of the Clemons family have careers in education. "The main thing is, I started all this, I started all this," says Betty Thomas, a recently retired assistant principal and Title I parent coordinator.
Dr. Alexander D. Brickler has delivered more than 30,000 babies since moving to Tallahassee in the late 1950s. Throughout his more than 40 years of practicing, he has taught and influenced thousands of doctors and nurses.