Reyes-Varela Helps Organise Charity Work At Mexico City Challenger
Tennis strings striking a fuzzy yellow ball is not the only impact that Miguel Angel Reyes-Varela is making.
The World No. 65 in the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Rankings played a key role in charity activities held at this week’s ATP Challenger Tour event in Mexico City, where players in the Challenger 125 field visited terminally-ill children and spent time with paralympic athletes.
Reyes-Varela’s girlfriend, Maricela Paulin, works as director of the non-profit organisation Fundacion Concamin. Paulin and ‘Micky’ teamed with businesses and the Mexico City Open to bring their idea to fruition.
“Through Maricela, I was invited to a paralympic race in November,” Reyes-Varela said. “Some of the athletes were blind, in wheelchairs, or had other disabilities. It really moved me. From there, I was like, ‘Let’s connect this to tennis.’ Maricela was the main person to get it done, I was just trying to connect the tournament and players.”
After talks with the Mexico City Open, the tournament staff quickly gave the green light. Reyes-Varela, 35, put the puzzle pieces together to help pull off Monday’s heartwarming activities, including a visit to Antes de Partir A.C., an organisation that works with kids battling cancer. Reyes-Varela’s doubles partner Robert Galloway and countryman Hans Hach Verdugo enjoyed the impactful and eye-opening experience.
“The first thing we did was with kids with cancer, terminal stage. So it was not easy,” Reyes-Varela said. “Rob and Hans came with us. It’s a home where they house not only the kids but also they hold their families, and have mental and emotional support for them.
“We were given a tour of the home first and they told us everything about it. We didn’t know what to expect when we saw the kids. It was tough. We got to the area they were playing, drawing, and they were told, ‘Here’s the surprise we told you about!’ The kids came running to us, hugged us, so much love. Heart sobbing. We were playing with them, we brought some little racquets, a net, and also balloons. We ended up playing more with balloons.”
Hans Hach Verdugo and a kid enjoying balloon fun at Antes de Partir A.C. Credit: Fundacion Concamin
Reyes-Varela explained that he is a big advocate of giving back and making an impact off court. The Mexican doesn’t want to get trapped in the professional tennis life and lose sight of things that have a deeper meaning in life than winning or losing, something he was reminded of as he watched the children enjoy day-to-day activities that are often taken for granted.
“The owners explained they don’t know how long the kids are going to live,” Reyes-Varela said. “Whatever it is, they want to provide the quality of life they deserve and not to be seen as a burden or just as sick people. Even for a moment to have those experiences to have friends, hang out, play activities, play Xbox.
“We brought a piñata, they were having so much fun getting the candy out of it. Before they broke the piñata, they were writing their wishes. They have all kinds of wishes, best of intentions, they are so kind to each other. There’s so much love.”
In the afternoon, more activities were held on site at the Centro Deportivo Chapultepec, where Daniel Elahi Galan, Cristian Rodriguez, Diego Hidalgo, and Alan Fernando Rubio Fierros, were among those to join in. Players spent time with paralympic athletes, including Mexico’s No. 1 wheelchair tennis player Carlos Muro.
Wheelchair tennis player Carlos Muro speaks with ATP Challenger Tour players. Credit: Fundacion Concamin
“Some of the paralympic athletes were born with disabilities, had an accident, or one had a cancerous tumor and lost his eyesight,” Reyes-Varela said. “They told us their stories and what they do. Some run marathons, some play goalball, which is the only sport that has been created specifically for visually impaired people. It was invented after World War II. I watched videos of goalball and I was like, ‘How can we do this at the tournament?’”
Reyes-Varela is hoping that Monday’s events can have a larger impact than just one day at the Challenger 125 event. The Mexican wants to see more tournaments organise impactful off-court events to promote giving back and charity work.
Daniel Elahi Galan learns to play goalball. Credit: Mexico City Open
Through the players’ giving back and tear-filled eyes, Reyes-Varela found that they too were experiencing something they will never forget.
“For us it was extremely touching,” Reyes-Varela said. “Later on, Maricela gave me some drawings that the kids made with messages. When we gave it to Rob, tears came to his eyes. When she gave it to me, of course the same thing. I put it in Hans’ bag in the players lounge and he didn’t know. He got to his bag to go practise, he picked it up, and I could see he got choked up. It’s so special.
“I’m 100 per cent sure the ones that received the biggest gift was us. We all had tears in our eyes at different moments. It’s great to see we’re more than just tennis players chasing the trophy at the end of the week.”
The response has been nothing but positive remarks to all who were involved. Throughout the process, Paulin and Reyes-Varela gained support from several organisations: Garra Azteca, Inclusion con Equidad A.C., Hero Group, and Silvestre Alfaro, who donated athletic equipment to the paralympic athletes on behalf of Innovasport.