The roar of laughter echoed along 14th Avenue during a “Give. Laugh. Love.” fundraiser at the Heritage Center to benefit the Sally Wilkey Foundation that featured standup comedian Gina Brillon firing off her chucklesome thoughts on life.
Guests milled about over cocktails before heading inside for the show and a dinner catered by Elizabeth D. Kennedy & Co. Later, attendees were encouraged to ‘give’ during a live auction, after enjoying a ‘laugh’ over quips by the comedian and a shared ‘love’ of the game of tennis.
The foundation was created in honor of Sally Wilkey, an avid tennis player and graduate of Saint Edward’s School who lost her battle with brain cancer three years ago. Known for her generous spirit and joie de vivre, Sally’s mother, Jane Wilkey, SWF president, said the event was a play on the motivational phrase, “Live. Love. Laugh.”
“My daughter lived every moment to the fullest, and she always had a smile on her face. She was kind and sweet and had a really great laugh. ‘Live. Love. Laugh.’ is something I always think about when I think of her,” shared Wilkey.
After her daughter’s death, Wilkey said people began giving her checks to support Sally’s many philanthropic endeavors. “It was a lot of money. We decided to start the foundation so that we could fund tennis lessons for children at the Hope for Families Center,” explained Wilkey.
Their goal is to enrich the lives of underserved youth on and off the court through tennis instruction, academic support and life skills development. Currently, the foundation hosts a free Saturday Clinic for about 30 children from local advocacy organizations and homeless shelters, where the children are tutored, get help with homework, play tennis and eat lunch.
Proceeds from the fundraiser, as well as donations and sponsorships, will enable SWF to host a four-week tennis camp in June at the Vero Beach Tennis and Fitness Club, during which children will play tennis, swim and have lunch.
“The parents won’t have to pay for childcare or any kind of camps, so they can go to work and not worry about the kids. They will be happy and safe for the month of June,” said Wilkey.
“This will be the first year that we will be able to offer a summer camp for the kids,” said Wilkey.
The previous two years, they provided funding for children to attend other summer programs.”
Ultimately, within the next five years, they would like to have a permanent location and expand the program to include afterschool tennis. In the meantime, if the children they work with have transportation to an afterschool program, SWF will cover the cost of that program.
“Tennis is something that has been a really good outlet and sport for my family. My father is a professional tennis player. He is 88 years old and still travels around the world,” said Wilkey.
Her brother and sister were also professional tennis players.
She noted that tennis teaches discipline, commitment and social skills, and can be played anywhere, with others or just hitting balls alone.
“It’s a good way to stay in shape and clear your mind,” said Wilkey.
For more information, visit sallywilkeyfoundation.org.
Photos by Kaila Jones and provided