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‘Ugly Ed’ helping local youths, still going strong
by Andrea Tyrell
Jul 10, 2013 | 1391 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela - ‘Ugly Ed’ Feinhandler (left) works with Dilworth Middle School student Vashisth Patel during a free tennis lesson at the Sparks High School tennis courts Wednesday morning.
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela - ‘Ugly Ed’ Feinhandler (left) works with Dilworth Middle School student Vashisth Patel during a free tennis lesson at the Sparks High School tennis courts Wednesday morning.
Tennis may not be the easiest sport to learn but for Sparks youth, they can get free lessons from a local coach. For the past 17 years, Ed Feinhandler has provided free sports clinics to low-income youth in the Sparks community and its surrounding areas.

Philanthropist and founder of the Huey Feinhandler Foundation, Feinhandler donates his time and money keeping kids of the streets and off the couch. He does so by hosting free tennis lessons with hope that these lessons will bring a love of the game and an appreciation for sportsmanship and exercise.

The tennis workshops began in the summer of 1997. Feinhandler says he had a conversation with God, thanking him for the many joys he had in his life and asking Him what he could do to help others. Feinhandler believes he had a premonition, realizing he could teach tennis to underprivileged kids. He spread the word of his open clinics to the tennis clubs and community centers around town and began to teach a dozen kids basic tennis moves only using three donated rackets.

Feinhandler began playing tennis as a teen in Elko. He learned the game quickly and then taught others. As a student at the University of Nevada, Reno in 1967, he won the fraternal Ugly Man contest, where men compete to see who had the ugliest face without the use of a mask or make-up. Feinhandler won that competition four times consecutively and named his newly created foundation based around his collegiate nickname.

“H.U.E.Y. is “Ugly Ed” in the middle surrounded by the “Happiness of Youth,” said Feinhandler.

He was the tennis director for five years at the Sparks Recreational Center and he also formerly coached boys and girls basketball and tennis teams at Bishop Manogue High School. This upcoming school year, Feinhandler will be coaching tennis at Sparks High School.

His tennis workshops are held now through Aug. 1 from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays on the Sparks High tennis courts. Tennis equipment, water bottles and sunblock will be provided. All ages and skill levels are encouraged to participate. Even though a $10 donation is suggested, Feinhandler insists if a child wants to learn how to play, he’ll teach them whether or not they can pay.

Feinhandler’s generous spirit extends beyond the basketball and tennis courts. With his foundation, he helps local needy families, giving them basic necessities like food and clothing. Additionally, he donates his time, taking kids to doctor appointments and on fun outings to places like Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in California.

“There was a little girl who came to the tennis camp for three years,” Feinhandler said. “And I got to know her and her family pretty well. It turns out that she was sick with a brain tumor and her parents couldn’t afford the medicine.”

The tumor pressed against the girl’s optic nerve, causing her to slowly go blind. Feinhandler phoned Saint Jude’s Childrens’ Research Hospital, a medical facility in Tennessee that treats pediatric cancers regardless of the family’s ability to pay. After speaking with a trauma nurse at Saint Jude’s, Feinhandler was able to secure a free bottle of expensive medication that helped subdue the tumor’s pressure against the girl’s optic nerve.

“I can’t stand to see kids suffer. If a kid crosses my path, there is an opportunity to help them. There is always some way to help,” Feinhandler said.

Fourteen-year-old Amairani Ayala experienced Feinhandler’s generosity first hand. She attends his tennis lesson with her brothers and sisters every day they’re offered.

“Ed helps out my family a lot,” said Ayala, a Sparks middle schooler. “He has bought us clothes and food and a lot of school supplies like backpacks and binders.”

Thirteen kids are currently participating in the tennis camp, with half being children with special needs. Assistant coach, Christopher Cook, lettered in tennis during his high school years at Sparks High. Despite having cerebral palsy, Cook shows the participants that anyone can play tennis as long as they have the motivation to play and the desire to learn. Members of the Sparks High tennis team also come in to teach and help perfect serves and overhand swings.

“These kids learn self confidence. We all give each other a high five and say ‘good job,’” Feinhandler said. “They already have so much negativity in their life and we don’t want to put any more in.”

Prince Global Sports, an athletic gear company based in east New Jersey, has donated over 500 rackets the past seven years. This year, 40 rackets were donated and are shared between Feinhandler’s programs and area high schools. For those who start lessons at Feinhandler’s clinic and continue with them over the years, racket trade-up is offered, allowing the kid to trade in an old racket for a brand new one.

Local companies like Greenbrae Trophy and area casinos have also been essential for mementos and monetary donations.

Past tennis camp participants have gone on to play in junior tournaments and for their high schools and universities.

Feinhandler’s legacy will be the people he positivity reached. As a firm believer of sports and the physical and mental health benefits they bring, Feinhandler encourages kids to get out and move. He is remembered by former students well into their 20s and 30s and is still asked to play. From his free clinics to organizing Reno’s charity softball game for the Make-A-Wish foundation, his love of activity and children continues to inspire.

“There is something that everyone could do,” Feinhandler said. For questions or information about free basketball and tennis programs, please call Ed Feinhandler at (775) 358-7033 or email him at
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