SIMPSON’S EXPERIENCES led him to found One Love Tennis
when he returned to Wilmington in 2013. He wanted kids —
especially at-risk kids — to learn the same lessons from the
sport that he did, to know they can overcome obstacles.
“The ages that we like to work with are from 5 years to 15,”
he says. “We want to give them hope, just like someone told me at 5, 6, 7
that you can succeed and do something with your life. We have kids from
Landfall and kids from the projects on the same court. All they know is they
are both trying to hit a tennis ball, and they’re getting to know each other
and become friends. They’re learning they’re not different than each other.”
Simpson is taking his message overseas, to England and to Israel.
“We now have global partnerships,” he says.
It started last year, when Simpson showed the 2015 documentary
“Althea” at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, home of
It was an uphill battle to show the documentary that details the life
of the tennis great — including the discrimination she faced at the All
England Club — even with the help of Hampstead resident and One
Love backer Jenny Trewby Spruill, a native of England who is a former
Wimbledon competitor and member of the club. Simpson was persistent,
believing all things are possible with God.
“Jesus Christ told me that all things are possible. That’s the premise I
work on,” Simpson explains. “The more you tell me no, that’s telling me yes.
If you tell me yes, that’s the best thing you can do for me because then
I’ll stop. If you tell me no, that means I’m on the right track, it’s gonna be
His persistence paid off, and in September 2016 Simpson and a group
from Wilmington travelled to England to show the touching documentary
to 350 people at the facility where the world-famous tennis tournament is
“All you could hear was sniffling,” Simpson says, describing the atmo-sphere
after showing the documentary. “It was the most moving thing
that I have ever seen happen to an audience. It was just an incredible
From top: A quote from Rudyard Kipling’s “If” appears over the player’s
entrance to Centre Court. David Dougherty, JoAnn Simpson, Kay
Dougherty and Lenny Simpson in front of the Venus Rosewater Dish. Rex
Miller, producer/director of “Althea,” and Andrew Castle, the top-ranked
player in England in 1986 and now a TV and radio commentator, discuss
the 2015 documentary during its showing at the All England Club. One
Love board members and supporters Carolyn and David McLemore, Jenny
Spruill and David Dougherty, Lenny and Rex Miller, and JoAnn Simpson
and Kay Dougherty at the Hereford Arms, a pub in South Kensington,
after the “Althea” screening. Lenny Simpson and Rex Miller in the Royal
Box overlooking Centre Court.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF LENNY SIMPSON/ONE LOVE TENNIS AND REX MILLER