I’m from Kansas City. I moved out to Colorado in 1963 and love it. I played tennis and baseball in school. I got a college scholarship to play tennis. I’ve worked in sales all my life. I had two total shoulder surgeries so I can’t play tennis anymore, but a former classmate told me about pickleball. I look on the internet and found one place to play in Denver in Lakewood. I went and I fell in love.
I became an ambassador of the sport. Now there are 71 places to play in the Denver area. In 2011 I came to Apex and I got acquainted with the past director. We put our heads together. Apex had 10 acres and we drew up some plans for 32 courts. Since then we have been fundraising and earning money from Jeffco Open Space grants to build the courts, eight at a time. When it’s done, it will be a $1.7 million project with no tax money. Pickleball started in the Seattle area. And it started really growing about eight years ago. Now 28 million people play pickleball. People call me Pickleball Ken. One of the pickleballers made a logo for me a while back that read “Pickleball Ken, get your game on.” It just stuck.
Teaching the community
I started clinic for autistic kids to teach how to pay pickleball. I had never been around autistic kids before. One little girl never got the ball over the net, but she loved it. It was just so neat to see. Then we had a disabilities clinic with 42 people. One mother came up to me after two hours and said my son has never stood up for over an hour in his life and she had tears in her eyes. It was just so neat. You cannot put a money value of laughter and fun.
Pickleball for Heroes
In 2015, we started Pickleball for Heroes, a fundraiser with Craig Hospital that helps Veterans with brain injuries. The first year we had a little over 200 players and raised $43,000. Last year, we raised over $70,000 and had over 300 players. We named our park Community Heroes Park for the veterans, military, fire and police, so we thought it would be a perfect event. Then we found Craig and TBI Freedom and 100 percent of the money goes to them.
The thing about me is I was always a workaholic. So I strive to be the best. And now I get to share pickleball and see how pickleball changes lives. We have a caring hearts group. To me, I’ve been very lucky in my life and made some money, so I enjoy giving back. Every year we have a picnic and everybody comes out to my house. This year we’ll have about 500. We provide everything for them as a thank you because it’s changed my life. Instead of chasing the all mighty dollar, now I can see lives being changed. People being happier. I’ve never been around anything like this, having fun and laughing. It’s all positive. I get more out of it than I put in and I’ve met so many neat people in pickleball.
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