Stormy weather last Monday evening forced a change of plans at a Pro-Am Party to kick off the 2018 Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships at the Grand Harbor Golf & Beach Club. With the courts a total wash-out, pros turned their considerable talents away from the evening’s scheduled exhibition matches to engage in some rousing indoor table tennis matches.
The enjoyable evening of revelry also featured entertainment by the Riptide band, spirited bidding on silent-auction items and the purchase of chances for some tremendous raffle items.
“This is a celebration of tennis,” said Randy Walker, co-director of the MFCF Tennis Championships.
Two years ago, the MFCF took over management of the “Futures” tennis tournament, one of the longest running on the U.S. Tennis Association Pro Circuit, and considered one of the best entry-level professional tennis tournaments in the world.
After a weekend of qualifiers, the competition began last Tuesday with 10 world-ranked players. There was also a good deal of conversation among guests about the much-anticipated pairing of this year’s hometown players, 2018 King of the Hill Champion Michael Alford and runner-up Robert Kowalczyk.
“The main objective of this tournament is to support children that we feel need to be in motion,” said Joe Pappalardo, MFCF board member. “We have over 120 volunteers that are helping us grow the foundation. They are all ambassadors and have a love for children, not just their own.”
The MFCF was founded in 2007 by Mardy Fish, a former top 10 tennis player and 2004 Olympic silver medalist, to promote healthy bodies and minds, character and teamwork, as well as Mardy’s Six Healthy Habits: Get Sleep, Drink Water, Exercise Daily, Eat Healthy, Brush and Floss, Make Friends. Today, the foundation provides funding for afterschool exercise, nutritional and enrichment programs to more than 2,100 students from kindergarten through eighth grade.
“Tonight is about thanking everybody for supporting the tournament; sponsors, donors and players. We have literally one of the best tournaments in the world,” said Tom Fish, MFCF chairman. “We are reaching more kids because we are investing our money and our donors’ money in the most efficient way.”
“The sponsors and donors tonight are investors who believe in our mission to provide a superior afterschool experience to children too often denied,” explained Pappalardo. He added that their vision is to provide “children of those less advantaged the opportunities befitting their talents and ambitions; a foundation funding programs that are blending the lessons of tennis and many other sports with the lessons of fitness, nutrition and character building.”
During the 2017/2018 school year, $70,000 was awarded to afterschool programs focused on exercise, nutritional and enrichment at the Gifford Youth Achievement Center, Boys and Girls Club of Indian River County, Dasie Hope Bridgewater Center, Indian River Golf Foundation, Middle School Club Tennis, LOTA Sports afterschool tennis programs, the Sebastian Elementary Cheer Team, Treasure Coast Gardening Club and Glendale Art Club.
For more information, visit mffkids.org.