Tennis tournaments are popular all over the country for one simple reason: tennis is a popular sport. Both adults and children play tennis with great enthusiasm. Athletic fundraisers such as walkathons, golf tournaments and cycling events are also quite popular. People like events that keep them active, offer an opportunity to be social with people concerned about a cause they care about – and give them the chance to play a sport they love!

The SASS Foundation for Medical Research, Inc. has held a popular golf tournament for 15 years. This year’s event was held on May 7th and raised over $115,000. It was held at the Mill River Club in Oyster Bay, New York. This year they chose to add a tennis tournament to the event.

“We decided that since the Mill River Club had both Golf and Tennis facilities – we would include tennis so we could maximize on the event, thus getting more people involved, and bringing in more money,” said Lois Lerner, Executive Director for the SASS Foundation. Funds raised were designated for cancer and blood related diseases. “Tennis is a very popular sport and is enjoyed by all ages and both genders,” said Lerner.

Running two events at the same time, some might wonder if people could play golf and tennis during the same day, as many who love one sport also love the other. “We did this (added the tennis event) to maximize the event. Our tennis portion was played at the same time as the golf took place and although the golfers were both men and women, all of the tennis players were women. Couples did attend and met up at our Cocktail reception and awards dinner immediately following the golf and tennis outings,” said Lerner.

Both sports at the event were popular and the event was very successful. “As our first tennis tournament ever, we had the full compliment of tennis players (for the number of courts that the club had) which were a total of 20 players who competed in a round robin tournament. We raised an additional 10K from the tennis. We had a tennis awards (outdoor) luncheon with vendors showcase and where the tennis participants shopped and more money was raised,” said Lerner. “We had 100 golfers (full capacity) take place and we raised over $115,000 in total for cancer research.”

“The SASS Foundation for Medical Research Inc. has been in existence for over 21 years. Our co-founders, Barbara and Marty Sass pay all of the general operating expenses so that all monies raised go directly to funding cancer research, patient care, and education. We are a 501(c)(3) public charity and we are committed to research, educating medical professions and providing resources and educating the public at large on the latest therapies and treatments. Research and education is how we make headway into finding cures,” said Lerner.

TennisThe Friendswood High School Tennis Team (Friendswood, Texas) of holds a unique tennis fundraiser: it is 48-straight hours of tennis playing. From Friday at 4:00 p.m. to 4:00 pm. Sunday on August 3rd through August 5th at the Friendswood High School, the Mustangs Tennis Team will play tennis with anyone making a donation. If you are interested in a 3:00 a.m. game of tennis, this is the place for you!

The tennis event is successful and quite popular in the community. “They (Friendswood High School) have done it in the past before I came to work here and it has been very successful fundraiser. It has been running for three years and they have done it every other year. The kids love it. We get a lot of community support here. We have about 75 to 100 from the community and about 65 kids working the event. The kids play in 4 hour shifts and they have to play tennis the whole time they are there. The people from the community come out and that’s how we raise money and they challenge the kids to play and they donate money to play the tennis team,” said Andi Morman, the Coach of the tennis team. The Friendswood High School has a Freshman, JV, 10th and 11th and also a Varsity Tennis Team. All of the tennis teams participate in this event. “Last year we did some car washes but we’ve found that this one is the main one that we really need. The kids liked it but they liked the (tennis) marathon a lot more,” said Mormon.

Mormon is the high school tennis coach. She has been there for two years, and is going into her third year. “I love working with children especially high school age. I played tennis in high school, it’s my passion. During college I also taught tennis. The secret to playing good tennis: one you have to love the game and if you want to play competitively it’s a lot of hard work. It’s a sport you can play your whole life,” said Mormon.

To play tennis it is done on donation. “From five dollars to five hundred dollars, they can donate whatever amount they want,” said Mormon. This year’s event made close to $11,000, up from last year’s event earning $9,500. They sold t-shirts and snack foods at a concession stand which helped to raise about $1,500.

The money goes to a very worthy – and tennis-focused cause that makes the kids happy. “Funds raised will be used to cover expenses of the team’s annual pilgrimage to Corpus Christi in September for the Little State Team Tennis Tournament,” said Mormon. Funds also help with other team and court necessities. The school pays for the hotel and the bus that is chartered for the trip, but these funds pay for all other expenses related to the Corpus Christi event. The trip costs about $6,000. They will also get new uniforms for the team and court benches.

“The kids look forward to it. It’s a big tournament, four hours from where we are. Play four different team matches, different schools, it’s a big tournament they have in Corpus Christi every year. The kids can win big trophies,” said Mormon.

Creating a Successful Event with Dedicated Volunteers

“Next year we hope to have the golf and tennis at a club that has larger facilities and accommodations so that we can have more tennis players involved. A not-for-profit needs to make certain that when implementing a tennis tournament that they have very capable (which we did) tennis co-chairs who know how to run the tennis tournament and have peers that will attend. Our 2 tennis co-chairs were just phenomenal!” said Lerner. They also had twelve dedicated volunteers assisting with every aspect of the event. The tennis tournament included a brunch, a round robin tournament, outdoor awards luncheon and a vendor’s showcase. Players were given the option of attending a cocktail reception and an award buffet dinner.

Funds were raised with this event through underwriting sponsorships for both tennis and golf, such as event sponsor, lunch sponsor or a dessert sponsor. “We also sold raffles, and ‘lucky bucks’ and also held a sports silent auction,” said Lerner.

The major fundraising event for the SASS Foundation each year is their annual Black Tie Gala and Dinner Dance and Casino. This event is held at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, New York. Last year’s event raised over $550,000 for medical research and this year’s event anticipates to do even better.

The Friendswood High School event has 65 tennis team players volunteers. They also have approximately 50 to 60 parents. “They put the whole event together (the parents). They get everything ready to go. Have great parent support. They get the tents and tables and chairs donated. Parents also work in four hour shifts; there are parents there around the clock. There are four to six parents there at the event for each shift. The parents are really behind this event, they love it,” said Mormon.

“My kids play in 4 hour shifts and the people playing them typically play for two hours. If no one challenges them, they’ll play each other,” said Mormon. The players will play more than one shirt at this event, they play at least two shifts. They may play one Friday and one on Saturday. They also get a break during the event.

“Its something that the community loves, they look forward to playing the kids on the team,” said Mormon. Some people play for two days of the tournament, others play all three days. They return over and over again to play tennis with the students.

Someone might wonder: who plays at 3:00 a.m.? With a 49-hour tournament, someone is always playing! “Mostly the varsity kids play in the middle of the night, the younger ones are there during the middle of the day. Usually the people from the community play until about 1:00 a.m. Then they come back at 6:00 a.m., but between 1:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. it’s just my kids playing,” said Mormon.

Interested in Running A Tennis Tournament? Consider These Tips!

“In order to make an event like this work, you need a lot of volunteers and a lot of help. You need to have people to help you. If it is at a school you have the ability to get a lot of parent help. If it is through the community you could go about getting sponsors to help. Through the school I think it is easier because you can get a lot of parents that are eager to help,” said Mormon. She has found that typically the parents volunteer when their children are there. So if a tennis player is playing in the early hours of the morning, their parent is there as well.

Mormon also suggests using all the resources that you have available to you. “If you know people, get with them as soon as possible. Early planning helps a lot. We started planning, a parent meeting in April to get ready for August. We start taking donations in May. About 50% of donations taken in May, mostly business donations. Individual donations came at the tennis marathons. On the t-shirts we put all of the big sponsors, they donated early to get the recognition,” said Mormon. She states that “early planning is key,” for this type of event.

No matter the size or type of organization, a tennis tournament can be a great idea. Tennis can be played in every season: fall, spring and summer outdoors and in the winter indoors. This may just be the ideal fundraiser for your organization!

Posted on 07 September 2007

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