The U.S. Open Ball Girl Who’s An Amputee—A Total Inspiration


I watched the U.S. Open semi-finals on Saturday night. Like many people, I rooted for a Serena Williams comeback (wahoo!). But I was most inspired by a young woman on the sidelines. Her name is Denise Castelli, she’s 25, and she is an amputee. She lost her right leg because of a bad slide during a college softball game; 37 surgeries could not fix it and infection set in. Doctors finally saw no other solution but to amputate.

Two years later, she got a prosthetic leg and started learning how to walk for the second time in her life. She started playing sports again and in early June, tried out to be a ball girl for the U.S. Open., part of an initiative started three years ago by the U.S. Tennis Association. They reached out to organizations, including the Challenged Athletes Foundation, to find an amputee.

This year, there were 80 spots available for ball girls and boys, and Denise landed one. “She’s got a shotgun of an arm,” said Tina Taps, the U.S. Open’s director of ball persons. “She’s fully capable of throwing the ball the full length of the tennis court.”

Denise was capable of much more. I spotted her on camera just once. Her prosthetic leg stood out among the sleek young limbs of the other boys and girls. And yet, she ran as swiftly as any of the them, bending down to rapidly snatch up the ball and scoot back to the side, standing tall.

I was proud of her, and completely inspired. She gave me hope for my son, Max, who’s 8. I’m not sure he will ever aspire to be a U.S. Open ball boy, but I hope that he will find a way to achieve the dreams of his choice. And I hope that whatever venue he chooses, he will be welcomed—encouraged, too. It would be fantastic if the U.S. Open and other associations found ways to include other kinds of young people with disabilities, too.

As Denise said when she found out she was going to be a ball girl,  ”I know it would mean a lot for the amputee community and the community of people with disabilities to show everyone that we’re more than capable of doing things, even though it might be a little different.”


From my other blog:

• 9 Ways To Always Have Hope For Your Child With Special Needs
• The People Who Give Me Extreme Hope

Photo from Denise Castelli

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  1. by Ed Logan

    On September 12, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Way to go, Denise. I did not see her while I was watching, but I did notice how fast the ball boys and girls have to be with sprinting to the ball and throwing.

  2. by Chris

    On September 12, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    The spirit of people who have had to make due with what nature has decided is right for them is amazing. I know of several people who are amputees, young or later in life, and this has not held them back or defined them, but rather it is just part of who they are ….. I am proud to have known an amputee. Have you?

  3. by Jason

    On December 1, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    you know she’s the second one to do this… A girl named Kelly Bruno was a ball girl at the US open a full year before this one, this girl just has better PR apparently.