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  • Writer's pictureNeal Hagberg

TLC Announces $1,000,000 Gift of Love on Valentine’s Day!

Hi Tennis and Life Friends,

Tennis & Life Camps is thrilled and grateful to announce the receipt of a $1,000,000 gift from Boy and Betty Toy, longtime TLC supporters.  The gift honors the work of the TLC summer staff for going above and beyond the duties of a regular job and acknowledges the impact summer staff make on the lives of thousands of campers.

Boy and Betty in their TLC t shirts which they still wear whenever they play tennis!

This endowed gift — meaning a permanent account is created where only an annual spending allowance is used — is a game changer for TLC summer wages in being able to continue to recruit, retain, and financially reward excellent instructors and staff.

But really, this is a love story.

  1. It is about love for a country – the U.S. – that over seventy years ago welcomed Boy and Betty with open arms as immigrants who had survived near-starvation and brutality in their separate villages as children in Japan-occupied China during World War II.  Boy recalls those war torn years living in constant fear of life or death. Boy and Betty have never forgotten being welcomed to America, a new land to start over in safety and peace.

  2. It is about the love of two people finding each other in, of all places, Duluth, MN.  They married over 60 years ago and have rarely been seen apart since.

  3. It is about the love of education.  They both saw education as a path to a better life, and when they received their degrees, spent their professional lives as educators in public schools, giving back what they had received.

  4. It is about the love of tennis.  They did not start playing until they were in their 40s.  And it was love at first sight.  They became passionate about the game and a fixture in the Upper Midwest tennis scene as volunteers at many events over the years.

  5. It is about the love for Tennis & Life Camps founders Steve and Barb Wilkinson and Steve’s philosophy, and how it changed their lives, not just their tennis games.  Boy says he lives by the sportsmanship mantra Steve stressed over and over as not only a tennis lesson, but a life lesson.  “If the ball is 99% out, you must

Boy and Betty in 2022 being inducted into the USTA Northern Section Hall of Fame!

call it good for your opponent,” because otherwise you will be cheating (knowingly or unknowingly) your opponent out of something that is rightfully theirs.

  1. And, finally, it is about the love for the TLC staff that Boy and Betty wanted to somehow reward for their work.  They saw the grinding work our staff members do for many hours in the heat, seven days a week and still embrace the Three Crowns of Positive Attitude, Full Effort, and Good Sportsmanship as their guiding principle.  But, what Boy and Betty saw – and why they want to recognize and financially reward the staff – is their unselfish attitude off court and the joy they have being with each other and the campers.  How theysee staff go above and beyond the call of duty.  How they carry in luggage, eat with campers, get to know campers as people and not just players, learn everyone’s name, even sing TLC camp songs with campers at the top of their lungs about how to make the world a better place with kindness, openness and humor.

  2. Perhaps the most telling – and to me, beautiful – love of all is Boy and Betty recognizing, as former public educators, what is truly important in life.  Steve Wilkinson wrote near the end of his life of giving to others in so many ways, including the gifts he and Barb provided philanthropically: “We are stewards of our possessions, not owners.  We are obligated to be charitable, not just from our surplus, but from everything that exceeds our needs for a modest lifestyle.”

When Boy and Betty gave this endowed gift, as former educators, to honor and support the work of the TLC summer staff, the last thing Boy said to me hit me powerfully.  “Money is not what is important.  What is important is the staff and the work they do. This is why we are giving this gift.”

And, as many of you recall, this is not the first major gift from Boy and Betty.  In our 40 Love Campaign to raise money for facilities and endowed scholarships before Covid hit, Boy and Betty gave their first gift of $1,000,000 to TLC to endow a fund for tennis court maintenance, to provide staff development and opportunities for the staff to bond together, and to endow a scholarship fund for under resourced campers.  All from two immigrants who were welcomed to this country and looked for ways to give back.

Please join us in thanking Boy and Betty Toy for a gift that will provide TLC in perpetuity the opportunity to continue spreading what we hope is a message of welcoming and embracing all, both on the court and off.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Boy and Betty.  We love you!

The TLC staff

Boy and Betty specially requested for Steve and Barb Wilkinson’s photo to be included because of how much Steve and Barb mean to them and to the world.


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