If adulthood begins at age eighteen, Vineyard Youth Tennis is already two years overdue to reach maturity. This remarkable program that has provided free tennis lessons to a generation of Island children and produced a succession of state champion players is ready to grow up.

For twenty years, the program has existed as a singular act of philanthropy by one person, who has reportedly given more than $12 million to make sure that Island kids receive coaching in a life sport once available only to the wealthy.

That benefactor is Gerald DeBlois, a longtime seasonal resident of West Tisbury, who from the beginning has sought to remain anonymous, though his identity has been disclosed previously. Mr. DeBlois has committed to continue funding the program through next summer, and the board is now exploring ways to sustain Vineyard Youth Tennis in the years ahead.

The best option for keeping the program going may be a merger with the YMCA, which confirmed this week it is in active discussions with Vineyard Youth Tennis. Since it opened in 2010, the Y has taken as its mission serving all members of the year-round Island community with affordable health and recreational opportunities. With a full-time professional staff, the Y has already proved its value as an administrative collaborator by partnering with the ice arena. Adding tennis to the sports it offers would be a logical extension of its services, something that YMCAs in other places have already pioneered.

There is plenty of road to travel before that could become a reality, including a number of regulatory hurdles. When the tennis program built its permanent home near the roundabout in Oak Bluffs in 2002, there were numerous conditions placed on it by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and the Oak Bluffs zoning board of appeals that will need to be revisited.

The Y already has much on its plate, and adding the challenge of figuring out how to make Vineyard Youth Tennis a sustainable program will be no small task. The program will no doubt need to find some paying customers as well as new donors willing and able to help carry on Mr. DeBlois’ legacy. But unlike twenty years ago, there is now a physical presence and community enthusiasm for youth tennis on Martha’s Vineyard.

Nothing lasts forever unchanged, and Vineyard Youth Tennis is due for reinvention. The Island owes Mr. DeBlois a debt of gratitude for launching and supporting this program for two decades, a debt that would be best repaid by helping it to live on.