Table Tennis Community Rallies to the Harvey Cause

By Richard Finn | Sept. 13, 2017, 5:34 a.m. (ET)

Several weeks ago Hurricane Harvey delivered a devastating blow to Houston and its surrounding communities.

Winds ripped through homes and buildings. Water, feet high in many places, rushed in, flooding entire homes, roads, cars and anything that stood in its path.  Schools and businesses were closed. Sports teams were displaced. Every fabric of life in one of the country’s most bustling cities was impacted.

The vibrant table tennis community in the Houston area was not spared from the wrath of Harvey. 

Many of the leading table tennis clubs suffered from the storm according to Manuel Velazquez, who has been actively involved with the table tennis community in the area for years. 

“The Corpus Christi TT Club was closed due to their host, First United Methodist Church, had to restructure their gym to accommodate displaced families and assistance workers to the hurricane.  Houston based clubs including the Texas TT Training Center and the Chinese Cultural Center were closed due to flooding on the roads and dangerous driving conditions,” reported Velazquez in an email to USATT officials. “The Houston International TT Academy was surrounded by flooded streets and neighborhoods and was closed for operations.

“The worst to suffer was the Houston TT Association, the oldest in Houston,” Velazquez continued his email. “They suffered water damage with leaking ceilings, lost ceiling tiles, water damage on the floors and lost an A/C unit in the process.”

A Summer Open tournament slated in late August was cancelled due to the storm and dangerous driving conditions. It will be re-scheduled for mid Sept possibly. 

But like all hurt by the storm, the table tennis community rallied together to build back up what was destroyed and to help their neighbors who were hurting. Velazquez posted notices on Facebook asking for donations to help rehabilitate the facility. The rest of the table tennis community too stepped up and together to begin the healing and rebuilding process for their communities. 

“With the spirit of brotherhood that binds us TT players and a good heart, the Houston International TT Academy has prepared a camp at their facility where 80 kids will receive training and playing during a 3-day event. The proceeds with go entirely to the Katy community schools that suffered much damage due to the floodings,” wrote Velazquez. 

The Texas TTTC that remained open lowered its daily playing fee from $8 to $5 for the month of September in helping those displaced players to come and enjoy the facility while theirs is being repaired. 

“A Hurricane Harvey Pongfest is in the works, “ wrote Velazquez. “Possibly in October-November and make a donation from the TT community in Houston to Harvey relief funds.”

Out of this devastation and through the tears of so many that lost so much, Velazquez is still hopeful. 

“ I'm trying to rally the troops, so to speak, regarding the need to organize our TT community in Houston,” wrote Velazquez. “There's many clubs and much diversity in the city but there's no real overseeing organization. Everyone does whatever and however they want. It would be great if we could all, from each individual club, become a part of a larger or greater Houston association were we can all try to help each other and help promote the sport beyond the basements.

My curse is being a dreamer.”