While Covid-19 seeps daily into the consciousness of the White House, 1,200 miles away in Wichita, Kansas, a British tennis player is helping families who know poverty but are yet to feel the full impact of coronavirus.
As Katie Swan waits for the Tour to resume – and for Wimbledon to decide whether or not to hold this year’s championships, scheduled to start on 29 June – she prepares part-time and turns the rest of her energies to helping disadvantaged people in her adopted city.
The Bristol-born player has lived in Wichita for seven years with her mother, Nicki, her father, Richard, and her teenage brother, Luke. For the past fortnight, they have been sorting tinned food and other necessities in their garage, ready for distribution.
“My mum works with a charity called Big Brothers, Big Sisters [a tax-exempt organisation mentoring underprivileged children across America and 13 other countries] who look after kids from a tough background,” Swan said on Friday.
“She decided when this coronavirus started that she wanted to support those families with groceries they couldn’t get, either because they were too scared to go out or, having too many kids, could not leave them at the house. Some still have to work while their kids are not in school. She has been going to the supermarket pretty much every day for the past two weeks, buying loads of groceries.
“I have been helping her get the care packages ready for delivery. The garage is packed. She told me [on Wednesday] they have sent out care packages to 70 families. Some of them have loads of kids, [including] a family of 15 who live in one house. She has also supported a 98-year-old man who cannot go to the grocery store. He loves my mum’s homemade banoffee pie. It’s the only thing he will eat.
“The other day my mother had a phone call from a single mum, with her son. She is not very well and she was crying down the phone. It was very emotional and she was so grateful. People want to help. It’s a really good community.”
Swan, who has played only four matches this year – the last of them in an ITF tournament in Santa Fe in late February – is still ticking over. “I go to the club to practise a couple of hours a day, then come home to do my fitness. They are not as strict where I live, but I am sure it is going to come. Over in Kansas City, a few hours from where we live, they have gone into lockdown.”
As for Wimbledon, who are likely to abandon the 2020 championships when they convene in emergency session next week, Swan said: “You cannot control anything that is going on in the world, other than taking the necessary precautions. If everyone does their best to stay hygienic, follow the guidelines, then hopefully Wimbledon has a chance of going ahead. But I have no idea if that will be the case or not.”
Swan, languishing at 256 in the world and keen to return to the Tour, added, “I know the WTA, ITF and ATP are working hard to do their best. Nobody could have predicted this. I have no idea how the system is going to change or if it will change.
“I am trying to take all the positives out of this. I had my 21st birthday on Tuesday. I know it is a shame I cannot be playing tournaments, but it is a silver lining that I got to spend the time with my family.”