Like so many, then-Campolindo High School ninth grader Jake Hammerman was at a loss when the pandemic shut down life as we knew it. But he understood that, suddenly, people everywhere needed help.

“I wanted to find a way to help out and do something important,” said the 17-year-old Lafayette resident, now in his senior year. “The first part was finding a cause to support and second part was finding a way that I was capable of supporting it.”

“My freshman tennis season had been cut short and when the county announced that tennis courts could reopen, I thought I could use tennis to make an impact,” he said.

Since older people were being hit so hard by COVID-19, Jake decided to focus his work on Meals on Wheels Diablo Region since the group delivers meals to food-insecure elders, who were particularly at-risk from the coronavirus.

“I researched local organizations and thought the work that Meals on Wheels Diablo Region did was incredibly helpful,” Jake said. “I have since got the opportunity to meet some of the seniors that benefit from their services, and it was amazing to see how much the organization meant to them.”

Jake enlisted four tennis-playing friends and officially founded Impactful Tennis, which gave lessons and asked for donations to Jake’s new GoFundMe account set up to benefit Meals on Wheels.

Donations came for about 98 percent of the lessons. After three summers — and 808 lessons — the group raised $34,725 for Meals on Wheels.

“The funds that Jake has raised from Impactful Tennis has had significant impact, allowing us to deliver more meals to more elders,” said Caitlin Sly, the executive director of Meals on Wheels Diablo Region. “He’s an amazing young man.”

Learning curve

It’s even more impressive when considering Jake never previously taught tennis.

“I spent a lot of time trying to come up with some ideas for lessons before I gave my first one,” Jake said “These ideas came from online and also thinking back to when I enjoyed taking lessons when I was younger. I was pretty nervous for the first part of our first summer, but now giving a lesson feels natural.”

The students were mostly local kids, from age 4 all the way to those entering high school, all on the Campolindo tennis courts.

“It has changed week to week, and summer to summer based on availability,” Jake said. “During that first summer, which was during the heart of the pandemic, I typically gave five lessons a day, 5-6 days a week, and almost every week that summer. It came out to 200 lessons overall. That number decreased a bit the second summer when I had other commitments to 65. And this summer I gave 47. Whenever I am free, I schedule as many lessons as possible.”

Jake’s good work hasn’t gone unnoticed. The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors honored him earlier this year with its 2022 Youth Hall of Fame Volunteerism Award and he was interviewed on Good Morning America.

“The funds that Jake has raised from Impactful Tennis has had significant impact, allowing us to deliver more meals to more elders. He’s an amazing young man.”

Caitlin Sly, Meals on Wheels Diablo Region

Jake’s mom, Julie Hammerman, said the family loved Jake’s idea, but had no idea it would go beyond raising a few hundred dollars.

“He had never given tennis lessons before,” Julie Hammerman said. “But Jake was very determined to give as many lessons as he and his team could in order to raise funds that would help as many seniors as possible in the community.”

“It doesn’t hurt that Jake loves tennis and through Impactful Tennis he discovered that he really enjoys teaching younger kids to play his favorite sport,” Julie said. “Jake has gained so much from this experience, including an enormous sense of pride in his ability to do something at a young age that helps others.

“Jake is very close with his grandparents and very aware of the challenges seniors face, so I think community service focused on supporting seniors will be a lifelong focus for Jake,” she said.

Just because graduation is coming and Jake will be off to college doesn’t mean Impactful Tennis ends there.

“I want to continue it this summer and then pass it on to the younger instructors to continue it afterward, and so on,” he said.