Every Monday afternoon throughout the fall and winter laughter and joy can be heard in the lobby at Midcoast Recreation Center.

There is an air of excitement that is unmistakable. It is time for Tennis for Fun. On the surface Tennis For Fun is a weekly tennis clinic. Dig a little deeper and one will see that it is much more.

Tennis For Fun was created in 2002 by Laura Stein, a standout tennis player at what was then Camden-Rockport High School. The program is unique because it is run by high school students for the benefit of individuals with intellectual disabilities from Coastal Opportunities.

"Tennis had been such an enriching part of my life and had served as a way for me to have the opportunity to interact with many different people whom I would not have otherwise met," said Stein in a news release. "I realized that we had a similar under-served population of adults with developmental disabilities in the Midcoast."

"Tennis for Fun is a great way for our participants to connect with the community through the high school students," said Joe Curll, executive director of Coastal Opportunities. "Our tennis players look forward to going every week and are disappointed if it is cancelled for weather or some other reason."

It is clear right away that the benefits of this program are not just for the players from Coastal Opportunities.

"Tennis For Fun has been the greatest learning experience of my high school career," said Abby Blakeley, who ran the program this year and is the number 1 girls player at Camden Hills. "Over these past four years I not only got to teach the Coastal Opportunities players tennis skills, but I grew tremendously as a person as well."

Another amazing aspect of the program is its longevity. Twelve years after its inception, the program is going strong.

"I never dreamed there would be the interest among younger generations of tennis players in seeing the program continue for so long," said Stein.

In addition to the weekly tennis clinic, the program has added a Special Olympics event held at MRC each August which hosts upwards of 70-plus athletes each year.

As the torch is passed amongst high schoolers year- to- year, MRC staff looks forward to the program’s continued success.

Much of the success of the program has to do with the tennis community that Midcoast Rec has helped foster in the area youth and the unwavering support it has provided to the program over all these years, notes Seth Meyer, co-executive director of MRC.

"Tennis for Fun is a great example of the amazing community that surrounds us. MRC is committed to serving our community via partnerships that result in programs like Tennis For Fun," Meyer said.

For more information, visit midcoastrec.org or call 236-9400.