ST. JAMES — Every Wednesday morning for as long as most St. James tennis players can remember, Brian Preston, St. James tennis director, has taught clinics at the Founders Club. He was out there doing it again on Oct. 3, only this time he was doing it for a very special cause.
That day, all tennis and pickleball clinics were held as a fundraiser for “Strut for Kids,” a Wilmington-based charity that supports the families of children who have been diagnosed with cancer. The cost of the clinic for the day was a donation in the amount of whatever the player chose to give to Strut for Kids.
For Preston, the cause is personal. He and his wife, Jennifer, lost their very brave 9-year-old son Owen to cancer last April, so he understands what these families are going through and the financial and emotional drain that they are dealing with.
“This is a very dear organization for us,” he said. “We like to support any organization that helps children with cancer, and this one being local was a no-brainer.”
Preston also expressed his gratitude to the Clubs at St. James for donating the court time for the day’s event.
The day began at 8 a.m. with Fred Ammann and Bob Malanga teaching a strategy session to intermediate pickleball players. The tennis clinics began at 9 a.m. with an energetic cardio triples session.
During the day more than 40 players participated in the clinics to support Preston’s Strut for Kids charity event and to get some good tennis and pickleball coaching. The day was capped off by a raffle drawing to win a new Wilson Hyper Hammer tennis racquet and a Head backpack. Congratulations to the winners: John Keilman (racquet) and Tanya Nickson (backpack).
Proceeds from the event exceeded $2,600.
Strut for Kids began eight years ago as a race event to ensure that two young Holly Tree Elementary School children who lost their fight to cancer would not be forgotten. Last year it became a nonprofit 501(c)(3) foundation and expanded its financial support to include Pender and Brunswick counties, in addition to New Hanover. There is no paid staff, so 100 percent of all proceeds and donations goes directly toward helping local families.
“There is no pediatric cancer treatment in our area so most of the children have to travel to UNC or Duke for treatment,” said Strut for Kids board member Renee Griffin. “That often means two or three trips a week to Chapel Hill or Durham. So we work with the pediatric oncology department and provide them with gas gift cards so as soon as a child from our area is diagnosed, the oncology team hands them a note of encouragement and a gas gift card from Strut for Kids.”
She went on to say that they also started an assistance fund last June whereby families can apply for financial assistance for things like house payments, car payments, utilities, etc. So far they have been able to help eight families through this process.
The St. James tennis fundraiser was the first event held outside of Hanover County and also the first non-race event. But more non-race events are on the way.
On Nov. 11, Strut for Kids will sponsor a family Buffet and Bingo Night fundraiser at Pine Valley Country Club. And mark your calendars for their 9th Annual Strut for Kids 10k, 5k, 1 Mile Dash and Fun Run, which will be on March 3, 2018.
For more information on these events and to sign up or to make a donation, visit www.strutforkids.org.
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