Guests enjoyed luncheon and tennis exhibition to benefit Mardy Fish Foundation

With an almost round-robin outpouring of support, members of the community came out Saturday afternoon to support Mardy Fish and his Foundation at the Mardy’s Tennis and Jake’s Music Fest weekend of activities.

The two-day event to benefit the Mardy Fish Foundation kicked off with a Kids’ Tennis Clinic Friday afternoon where children had the chance to play with, and get some tips from, these top professional athletes.  Then, on Friday evening, country music sensation Jake Owen wowed a sold-out crowd with his concert at the Vero Beach High School Performing Arts Center.

Saturday afternoon at the Grand Harbor Golf Club, which donated the use of their facility, rain clouds dampened the courts and delayed the exhibition.  But that only gave guests at the gourmet barbeque luncheon a little more time to bid on the numerous silent auction items up for grabs.

Many of the volunteers who came out to help Saturday were tennis friends of Mardy’s parents Sally and Tom Fish, and have been helping out since the Foundation was founded in 2006.  The 40-plus volunteers were kept busy covering up their nicely displayed auction items as the rains came just moments after they finished setting it all up.  After the deluge stopped, they just shrugged it off and began drying the tables, chairs and bleachers, getting it all ready once again.

“It’s getting more exciting every year,” said Tom Fish.  “It’s really about the kids.  The main focus is on the after school programs; the classes we offer are the classes that are being cut back, like sports, drama and music.”

Members of Pelican Island Elementary School, the Foundation’s first beneficiary, were at the event representing some of the various ways they’ve been helped through these events.  The Mardy Fish Music Club and Health and Fitness Club was created at PIES in 2007.  Teacher Lori Ford noted that the biggest problems at school are with cutbacks in after-school funding because of curriculum demands.

“This fills the void after school, offering structured programs with individual instructors.  They’re fun, interesting and academic,” explained Ford.  A long time friend of Sally Fish, Ford watched Mardy grow up and has followed his career with interest.

“It’s marvelous; we’re very lucky to have Mardy and Jake.  It so helps at our school and now they’re also helping other schools.”

The foundation has also been providing funding to the Youth Guidance Foundation, and the local Boys and Girls Clubs. Three additional after school programs and clubs have recently been added at Glendale Elementary School, Sebastian Elementary School and Thompson Magnet Elementary School, in addition to a new Mardy Fish Foundation Kids on Courts program.

As grounds crews dried off the courts, guests gathered under tents to enjoy a bounteous barbeque lunch of grilled chicken, fish and pulled pork with all the fixings, while talking about their famous hometown boys.

“I missed one year, but it was only because my daughter was getting married,” laughed Jean Ueltschi.  As another long time friend of Sally’s, Ueltschi admired Mardy’s hard work as he was growing up and the way he is now enabling the next generation of students to be introduced to sports and music.  “I remember playing in a pro-am tournament years ago, with Thomas Blake and the Bryan twins, and all these young tennis players were the nicest young men; they treated us like their moms.  There couldn’t have been a better group of friends for Mardy to have met in his early years.”

Ueltschi also expressed admiration for Jake Owen, saying, “I’m so impressed with him; I thought the concert was great.  His voice is developing and maturing and he’s the whole package with good looks, talent and a great sense of humor.”

“He makes you want to love him; he’s a great performer,” added Lynn Buford.

Emmy award winning sportscaster Brett Haber was the event’s quick-witted auctioneer during the luncheon, selling off live auction items that included a tennis lesson with Ivan Lendl, VIP tickets to a performance by the Dave Matthews Band, artwork by William DeBilzan and several great excursions.  Karan and Mark Morein were high bidders on the trips to New York for the US Open and to Beverly Hills.

After lunch, Fish was joined on the court by fellow tennis players James Blake, Dave Martin,  Jesse Levine and Thomas Blake for a good-humored tennis exhibition, egged on throughout by announcer Brett Haber.  Fish and James Blake faced off first in a singles match, with the game staying close through the first ten points while the players traded wins, but Blake pulled ahead in the end, beating Fish 8 to 5.

The entertainment continued with members of the Pelican Island Dance Team, showing off their cheering moves to an appreciative Fish and the fans.  Play began again with a doubles match pairing Thomas Blake (filling in for his brother James who had to catch a flight) with Jesse Levine against Fish and Dave Martin.  The players joked with each other and Haber, while still showing off their professional skills and some great volleys.  Martin was a big hit with the crowd when he did “the worm” on the court after winning a point, completely cracking up Fish who couldn’t stop laughing.  Fish and Martin won the doubles match 8 to 4, but the real winners were the kids who will benefit from the events.{igallery 123}  {{igallery 121}

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