Erie physician to take donated tennis rackets to refugee children in Africa

08.22.16 | Bob Price

When Brian Stark travels to the Kakuma refugee camp in Africa in October, the Erie physician will deliver antibiotics, multivitamins and nutritional medicine to some of the world's poorest people.

He'll also have tennis rackets.

How many rackets is still to be determined. 

Stark, his teenage son and a local advocate for refugees will spend more than two weeks at the overcrowded camp in Kenya, home to nearly 200,000 people. 

There is an abundance of dirt and open space on the land surrounding Kakuma, making it easy and inexpensive for the refugee children to play tennis. But the rackets the kids now use are old and partially destroyed. 
 
"They make do with way more than what we throw out in this country," said Stark, 50, a family physician with a practice in Fairview.
 
Ed Grode, a Fairview Township resident and board member for the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, is helping coordinate the trip to the South Sudan camp. When Grode was recently told by Kenyan officials that the children in Kakuma played tennis but needed rackets, he got the idea to take a collection from Erie.

Stark on Aug. 8 hopped onto his neighborhood's Nextdoor social network app and posted an item asking Frontier Park residents to donate their used tennis rackets. 

He received six rackets in his first day, and more than 25 rackets in two weeks. He is hoping for more.

"Every day or so there would be one or two rackets sitting by our front door or garage," Stark said. "People are wonderful when you ask."

Stark said those interested in donating tennis rackets can drop them off in the main office at Cathedral Preparatory School, 225 W. Ninth St., in Erie. His son, Brian Jr., 17, is entering his senior year at Cathedral Prep.
 
Please do not donate wooden rackets or broken rackets. Tennis rackets with broken strings are fine and can be restrung.
 
Brian Stark Jr. will film the experience at the Kakuma refugee camp, then edit the footage for a video he will show at his school and elsewhere in the Erie community.
 
"My goal is to get off the plane in Kenya and go to work helping people that need to be helped," said Brian Stark, the physician, who previously took his medical experience overseas on a similar trip he made to Kenya in 1993. "We are there to help alleviate the suffering."