BETTENDORF — To Kenya, from the Quad Cities Pickleball Club, with love.
In the fall of 2018, Pastor Euticauls Wambau, administrative director of the Nairobi, Kenya-based Perry Jayne Girls Center, made a visit to the Quad-Cities, spending two weeks with the Ideker family of LeClaire.
It was during his 2018 stay Wambau was introduced and fell in love with the game of pickleball, a shortened, fast-paced version of tennis, which has stormed the nation in recent years.
And pickleball plays huge in the Quad-Cities.
The good pastor also made friends with many members of the Quad Cities Pickleball Club, an outgoing, athletic and friendly group, with a whopping membership of 500.
Wambau shared a hope that pickleball would be an addition to the Perry Jayne Girls Center. The catch was finding funding and sporting goods in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya.
Andrea Ideker went to QC Pickleball Club's board of directors for help in purchasing equipment on behalf of Wambau's school. Pickleball, she told the group, would provide fun, exercise and friendly competition for students.
The club responded in a big way.
This week, a trio of regulation pickleball nets, several dozen paddles and balls, monetary donations and hundreds of pickleball-themed tournament T-shirts made their way to Eastern Africa and Penny Jayne Girls Center.
Idekers on a mission
Over a 10-year period, paced by Andrea Ideker, a bevy of Ideker family members completed several mission trips to Nairobi to serve in a variety of Christian ways. Along that path, they met and came to admire Wambau and his work.
During the family's first trip in 2007, "one of our stops was a private school in a large slum of Korogocho, called the Kariobangi Youth Center, which educates 350 children pre-K through eighth grade. It gives them quality education and two meals a day. Wambau ran that school and even attended it many years prior when it was a technical school.''
Ideker and her father learned Wambau harbored hope to someday provide girls a chance to attend high school and have a better life.
The Idekers were so taken with his mission, they helped Wambau breathe life into Perry Jayne Girls Center.
In 2014, Wambau received a large land donation and construction began on his dream school. In 2018, after fours years of struggle, classes began with 60 young women living in dorms and attending classes.
Tuition is $2 monthly.
"Only about 10 of those families can pay that,'' Ideker said. "But he makes it work. It's amazing what is being done to provide a better life for those girls. They will have a chance at something.''
"It is difficult to for those in poverty to be able to attend high school,'' Ideker said. "Especially for young women as they are exposed to social evils of the slum, some forced into early marriages and abuse.''
"It's great exercise and it's something anyone can play,'' Ideker said. "He really caught the bug with pickleball.''
"I have people,'' said Larry Miller, president of the Quad Cities Pickleball Club, with a huge smile and chuckle.
"Let me change that,'' Miller asked. "I am the president of a club that has great people, who besides having fun playing a great and popular game, are wonderful, amazing and generous. I have great people who are behind a pretty amazing cause. This donation has a chance to change lives.''
Ideker could not contain her excitement regarding the club's generosity and the thought of pickleball someday sweeping through Kenya. Or at least playing big at the Perry Jayne Girls Center.
"This is not my first trip to Kenya, but it is my first one with suitcases loaded with pickleballs and equipment,'' she said. "It's like Christmas in a way and I'm getting to deliver all these cool gifts. Who knows what this can lead to, but the goodwill and generosity shown by the Quad Cities Pickleball Club are special in so many ways. I'm proud to be a part of it.''
The gesture is typical of club members, Larry Miller, president of the Quad Cities Pickleball Club, said.
"I'm not surprised at the board of directors agreeing to be part of this and our membership jumping in with both feet,'' the retired educator said. "And some members have reached out to pickleball equipment companies to see if we can build what our club has started.''
Ideker harbors hope pickleball has a chance to grow in Kenya but is certain it will provide tremendous growth for the Perry Jayne Girls Center.
"They will love this,'' she said. "They will have so much fun playing. You never know, Kenya may someday be known for pickleball.''
All thanks to a fun game and the big hearts of a bunch of Quad-Citians.