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Otters and America's fastest growing sport: Cincinnati author unites community through reading and pickleball

'How Pickleball saved Ollie the Otter' inspires adaptive classes
Ollie the otter .jpg
Posted at 8:07 AM, Jun 09, 2023

CINCINNATI — Can the fastest growing sport in America help heal a broken heart and create community for a marginalized group? One Tri-State man thinks so.

Before Larry Blundred tried his hand at writing children’s books, he was a husband — facing an impossible loss.

“My wife’s health was declining due to a brain tumor,” he said.

Before he was an advocate for adaptive athletes, Blundred was in need of community himself — when a friend reached out — with an idea.

“Come with me. I got something that you're gonna like, and it's going to help you. And it was pickleball,” he said.

Soon he had found his place, his paddle and his people.

“I found community encouragement, fun. Therapy for me,” he said.

For some, that would be the end of the story. But for Blundred, it was just the beginning of a new chapter.

“After my first grandson was born, whose name was Oliver, short for now, Ollie. And that developed into a series of books.”

Courtesy: Ollie Otter Enterprises

Ollie the Otter and his friends discover pickleball by chance, like Blundred did. They soon discover that pickleball is indeed for everyone.

“The books are designed to share my mission, which is to remind people no matter what their background, their family situation, their physical condition. There's a place for pickleball in their lives that can generate hope, strength, comfort and encouragement,” he said.

Matt Detkas with Cincinnati Tennis Foundation couldn’t agree more.

“Right away, man, as soon as you play, you realize, like, it's a fun way to build friendships, build community,” Detkas said.

Soon, a partnership developed. And tennis courts were fitted for pickleball players of all ages and abilities.

“Everybody comes. Everybody is welcome. And that diversity, and that inclusion is like really important to us. And I think in pickleball, there hasn't really been a landing spot for that. And we're trying to create that with this adaptive pickleball program,” said Detkas.

“Their mission coincided with my heart and my passion. So we've partnered here to really try to make a difference,” said Blundred.

So, how does the story end? For Blundred and Matt and Ollie and his friends, only time will tell. But based on all the smiling faces, probably happily ever after.

Click here if you want to learn more about Blundred's books or get connected with the local pickleball community.

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