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Tennis Community Rallies Around Tom Telford

April 12, 2007 10:32 AM
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In December 2002, after what seemed like a lifetime of anticipation, a patient man by the name of Tom Telford received a left lung transplant at Shands Transplant Center in Gainesville, Fla.  Although Tom is part of a lucky few to receive a new organ, his future survival is far from certain.  That is why, on March 31, four of the very best tennis stars traveled to the University of Florida to lend their talents to help raise awareness for a significant problem faced by all recovering transplant patients – chronic rejection. 

The UF Sports Performance Charity Tennis Classic drew over 300 people to the event, which started at the Ring Tennis Complex at 11:00 a.m. with an on-court tennis clinic led by local professionals, Raj Lama and Berty Reitenbach, three time All-America player Alexis Gordon and 1977 Wimbledon doubles champion JoAnne Russell

The pros kept the pace fast as players rotated courts and practiced their strokes.  After the clinic, participants enjoyed a delicious lunch catered by Larry’s Giant Subs.  The most entertaining part of the day took place on the Gator tennis courts when JoAnne Russell and current WTA tour player Rennae Stubbs played an exhibition match against Alexis Gordon and current WTA tour player Corina Morariu.  Former Gator football player and NFL pro, Neil Anderson, refereed the light-hearted match, while local Jr. Team Tennis players acted as ball kids.  Applause, audience interaction, and exciting points encapsulated the 8 game pro set.  Laughter broke out during the last point of the match when Anderson, who had been relatively quiet during the game, called a foot fault on Stubbs.  Luckily, the call didn’t cause a commotion, and Russell and Stubbs pulled out a 9-7 victory.    

After the match, the players were interviewed by WCJB News, signed autographs and took pictures with fans.

Evening festivities took place at the UF Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine Institute that included a silent auction and open bar, guest speakers, dinner and music by Collective Format.  Attendees bid on everything from US Open tickets and professional players’ racquets, to weekend vacations and jewelry.  100% of the proceeds from the auction were donated to Lung Transplant Research at the University of Florida.

Unfortunately, only 50% of lung transplant patients survive after 5 years within receiving their new organ.  The hope of this event was to plant the seed money to allow Shands transplant doctors to bring on board a scientist (MD) that will focus solely on transplant research, coordinate work with other national and international transplant centers and prepare proposals for grants from the American Lung Association.

Perhaps the greatest thing about the event was that tennis served as the main outlet to bring attention to this cause.  Members of the tennis community joined efforts to enjoy not only a fun, but significant day together.

“I think that we’ve made a point and brought to the attention that chronic rejection is a real problem,” said Tom.  “The most important thing is that everyone is having fun out there, and that’s what counts most.”

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