Roddick: ‘We Have To Serve Families That Put Their Faith In Us’
In 2000, former World No. 1 Andy Roddick founded the Andy Roddick Foundation to help support underprivileged children. Ever since, the foundation has helped provide high quality out-of-school learning and enrichment opportunities for families that wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford such experiences.
On 3 April, the foundation announced the creation of a Family Emergency Fund to help those families in Austin, Texas, in new ways during the coronavirus pandemic. Roddick tells ATPTour.com that even the smallest donation will help. Not only does the closing of schools hurt childhood education, but he says there are families in the area that rely on the two meals per day kids get at school.
“It’s a huge deal. If you think about the cost of groceries, even the smallest donation can cover groceries for a day, which in these times is huge. That was our first goal: we’ve got to replace these two meals a day, to not throw a family that’s already potentially in a stressful situation in a financially stressful situation,” Roddick said. “Thankfully we do plan ahead so we do have a little bit of a runway, but we also have staff and food and there are so many different needs we have to fill right now. Anything we can get helps, and the Austin community has been amazing… Every little bit at this moment in time can make the difference for a family.”
Roddick and his foundation’s team take pride in following the children and the families they support throughout their growth. Although the typical after-school programs the foundation runs can’t take place now, that doesn’t mean they don’t feel responsible for the well-being of those families.
“We sign up and we want these kids. We start them in kindergarten and we go through fifth grade and our job is to really supplement the parents, giving the families the tools they need to succeed. That doesn’t end at the school bell. That doesn’t end when they walk off campus,” Roddick said. “The families that we serve are the types of families that get hit the hardest during something like this. You have to be able to act quickly, so we had a bunch of emergency strategy meetings with our board, with our staff. It’s a tough thing, because a lot of our value is the person-to-person interaction… We have to continue to serve the families that put their faith in us.”
The foundation’s programs team has created weekly activity menus to work with teachers, made daily videos to be sent directly to families and posted on social media, and various take-home and student-supply kits have been distributed.
The Family Emergency Fund raised more than $15,000 within three days of its launch last Friday, and foundation staff has extended person-to-person outreach to follow up with networks of individuals, corporations, and foundations to make them aware of the fund.
“We serve a lower socio-economic area in Austin, and those families rely on getting the two meals a day. We’re just getting our final data back now, but some of them, the kids don’t have access to Internet, especially if their parents need it to work. There aren’t enough devices,” Roddick said. “There are constant questions being asked and we’re certainly learning as we go and then we start trying to address the educational piece of it. We still want to service the kids and we don’t want them to have the dive afterwards. We’re all just reacting like everyone else, but we think we were well-positioned to be an agent for help.”
The Andy Roddick Foundation is part of the Austin Community Resiliency Trust, a leadership network of 48 non-profit leaders formed two weeks ago to meet in order to plan the most efficient way to maximise scarce resources and prevent duplication of efforts.
“One of the biggest strengths we have that hasn’t been taken away from us is communication. You still have access to voices. Not physically face to face, but one of the bigger things is if United Way has something that works, Central Texas Food Bank has something that works, they can leverage resources that we have as far as staffing or something else,” Roddick said. “The broader the network, the more resources we have. It was a pretty easy decision to throw our name into a hat.”
Roddick has been appearing on Tennis Channel throughout the pandemic, and along with wife Brooklyn Decker, they have highlighted good deeds that they have seen posted on social media.
“That’s something that Brooklyn and I were struggling with. On top of what we do for the foundation and financially different things, we were thinking of how we can effect change now,” Roddick said. “It felt so overwhelming to where you can’t control a virus, you can’t be tougher than a virus. There are ways you can try to avoid it, but we were behind the curve. We didn’t know what it was, when it was there. There were so many unknowns, so to be able to take control over something and say, ‘Hey listen, this is small, this is what we’re going to do. We left gifts for delivery people, sent cookies to frontline workers’, these small acts of kindness are kind of needed and if you build enough of a trend you can effect change on a bigger level.”
Roddick has seen charitable acts done by the likes of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, helping the tennis world lead with its philanthropic efforts. The fact that tennis players have been out in front in that way is no surprise to Roddick.
“What it does is I think it puts a magnifying glass on what tennis is doing now, but it’s not a one-off for tennis. Tennis has always stepped up and when I travel around speaking on behalf of the foundation to either other non-profits or conferences, my opening is about how I was lucky to be in the right vacuum,” Roddick said. “When you’re looking at people like Billie Jean King and Arthur Ashe and Andre Agassi and Martina Navratilova and what Venus and Serena have done, tennis has always had that culture… It does elicit a sort of pride to be part of that community, but it also creates a responsibility to do your part.”