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Making a Difference at Girls’ 14s Fall Designated

December 28, 2007 09:59 AM
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This past November at the 2007 USTA Florida Challenger Tennis Fall Designated (G14), tournament staff, parents and junior competitors focused their efforts towards a cause that meant more than the first-class tennis it featured and ranking points it awarded.  For the first time in history, the USTA Florida Girls’ 14s Fall Designated went PINK to help a family suffering emotionally and financially with the loss of their young 25-year-old mother who recently passed away from cancer in May 2007.  Players, parents and staff raised money and showed support for the Shumate family by planning various promotions including a bake sale and cupcake contest, cell phone drive, gift card collection and a contest for the pinkest dressed player and pinkest dressed mother. 

“It was really great to have the tennis community come together to help this family that most of these people haven’t even met,” explained Lynn James, tournament director.  “At one point, the officials and I looked at the courts and it was all pink.  The girls really embraced the weekend and it was great.”

Andrea Shumate was a fantastic woman who loved the game of tennis and played the game almost everyday.  She is the daughter of former ATP Pro, Steve Wedderburn from Australia, and her sister, Ashley Wedderburn, plays college tennis for Louisiana Tech.  Her husband James served time in Iraq as a Marine and together, they have two children, James Jr. (3) and Jackson (1).  After having Jackson in May of 2006, Andrea found a lump in her shoulder and promptly went to the doctor to have it examined.

Unfortunately, the lump wasn’t a large bug bite or a piece of cartilage, but rather sarcoma cancer – a cancer of the connective or supportive tissue (bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels) and soft tissue that is extremely rare and highly malignant.  At 24, Andrea had been diagnosed with cancer.

Though Andrea fought the cancer with every ounce of her body, just one year later and only two weeks after Jackson’s first birthday, she passed away.  With a large support system of friends and family, they promised her story would not end with her death, but rather survive in memory.  Today, thanks to her friends, family and a small group of 64 girls, their parents and a handful of tournament staff during the Girls’ 14s Fall Designated at Paul J. Maxwell Park, home of the Challenger Tennis Academy in Pembroke Pines, Andrea’s memory lives on.  And it lives on in a big way.

The tournament raised $400.00 for the family from the cupcake competition and bake sale, where officials wore chef hats and judged the cupcakes using an American Idol theme.  In addition, 40 cell phones have been collected.  Madison Keys, eventual tournament champion, won the contest with her “Halloween Leftovers” cupcake, while second place went to Katie Florescu with her “Lifesavers” cupcake.   Their prize was a pink chef hat and baking kit.  Pink was definitely the theme of the tournament as the clubhouse was decorated pink, tables were pink, goodie bags were pink, outfits were pink and Wimbledon-like trophies were filled with pink tissue paper.

“We'd like to personally thank all the generous players and their families for donating money to the Shumate Family,” said Lynn, who has never met Andrea, but feels like she knows her.  “Thank you so much for your kindness and generosity; it was so rewarding to see how much everyone cared.”

Due to the success of the “Think Pink” designated tournament, it will become a yearly event, with the principal goal of helping the Shumate family.  In addition, Lynn has renamed their 2008 Memorial Day USTA prize money event in Andrea's name; it is now called the Andrea Shumate Memorial Tennis Classic.

The tournament showcased not only the best girls’ 14s tennis in Florida, but it also reiterated the strong sense of family within the tennis community.

Mark Dzulynsky, whose daughter Sophie finished second behind Madison Keys, said it right when he commented, “On behalf of my family and my kids, I’d like to thank you [Lynn and tournament staff] for making this tournament a very special and memorable tournament.  You took a simple tournament and made it outstanding, impressive and moving for all those involved, including the parents.  Thanks for making it a very special one for me and my family.”









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