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Check out backpack of tennis equipment

Before school is out this week, families will be able to check out a backpack full of tennis essentials from the Ilsley Public Library in Middlebury for some summer fun. The backpack (only one will be available at the onset of the program) contains two adult tennis rackets, three youth rackets, a variety of tennis balls for different ages and skill levels, a few books about tennis stars, and a resource guide informing parents of fun tennis games to play with their kids.
The tennis backpack is the newest addition to the five-year-old Community Explore Backpack Program at the library. According to Youth Services Librarian Tricia Allen, the Ilsley Library lends out around a dozen backpacks with various themes, including ones with themes including “kindergarten readiness,” “dragons” and “magic.”
“The backpacks are very popular with kids, parents, and especially grandparents,” Allen said.
Each backpack comes with theme-centric activities and three to five books, and can be checked out — the tennis backpack for one week at a time, the others for three weeks.
“They are a fun way to connect literacy to other activities,” Allen said of the backpacks.
Typically, the backpacks at the library are targeted toward elementary school children, but Allen believes the tennis one might interest a wider age group.
The Addison Community Athletic Foundation (ACAF) provided the rackets and tennis balls for the backpack. The foundation, which owns and operates Middlebury Indoor Tennis (MIT), was established in 2012, but began the bulk of its outreach programming in 2015. Since then, ACAF has partnered with local schools and organizations to generate awareness of and participation in tennis throughout the county.
“It can be daunting to introduce tennis to your family,” said Erin Morrison, program and communications manager at ACAF.
Allen and Morrison both hope the new tennis backpack will encourage participation in a sport for which access to necessary equipment can act as a barrier.
Families can play tennis at the outdoor tennis courts at the Middlebury Recreation Park near Mary Hogan Elementary School or at the two outdoor tennis courts in East Middlebury. Additionally, families can use free court time on Sundays from 10:30 a.m.- noon at MIT. MIT provides additional rackets and balls during this time for free.
Tennis courts are also located in other towns such as Bridport, Shoreham, Vergennes and Lincoln, Morrison pointed out.
The tennis backpack will sit on the shelves of the children’s department at Ilsley Library with a matter of days, eagerly waiting to be checked out during regular library hours. Ilsley Director Dana Hart is excited to get kids and their families out on the court.
“It’s a great opportunity for families looking to spend time together outside doing something active, but without having to invest money in buying the equipment,” she said.

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