The Tennis for Charity tournament in Winnipeg keeps finding creative ways to help out the community. This year it raised $13,000 for a library at Carpathia School. A year earlier, money was raised for Dreams Take Flight to send disadvantaged children to Disney World. For the 2017 tournament (September 12-14), funds raised will go toward playground equipment at Laura Secord School.

Tennis for Charity is held annually at Taylor Tennis Club and Winnipeg Winter Club. In 20 years, the tournament has raised over $220,000 for children and women in Manitoba and Canada.

“We have people that have sponsored something for 20 years,” said Tennis for Charity committee member Gaylene Chesnut. “Our ladies, wherever they shop they ask for donations.”

In 1997, Tennis for Charity was organized by Carol Corona, Carol Wright, Donna Webb, Edie Werner, Marlene Collette, Theresa Parrish and Karen Middagh. The ladies had gone to a charity tournament in Toronto that raised money for Save the Children and thought a similar event could work in Winnipeg.

“They had a really good time and thought we could do it here,” said Chesnut. “That’s how it started.”

From 1997-2003 Tennis for Charity supported Save the Children. Since then the tournament has raised money for local charities, including the Autism Society of Manitoba, Osborne House, Rossbrook House, the Laura Milner White Fund (Niji Mahwka School and Mulvey School), Westgrove School, Esther House, and Specialized Services for Children & Youth.

Among the projects Tennis for Charity has supported are a communication centre at Osborne House, a climbing wall at Mulvey School, and a play structure at Westgrove School. The tournament raised $12,000 in 2012 to help cover the $60,000 cost of the Westgrove School play structure.

“The whole community is involved in that and gets to use that play structure so that’s a win-win for everybody,” said Chesnut, a volunteer at Westgrove School.

Supporting projects at schools is a key focus for the tournament.

“People think we pay so much in school tax, ‘why would the schools need any money?’ But they are so desperate,” Chesnut said. “There’s no money for anything extra in the schools. It doesn’t matter what school district you’re in.”

The Tennis For Charity tournament features 15-20 teams, with four players per team. Each team is guaranteed four matches, and winners of the A-level and B-level divisions have their names engraved on the Carol Corona Cup. In addition, there are prizes for best team name and best team costumes.

Tennis For Charity includes a luncheon on the final day. Each team is required to buy a gift for the silent auction, which takes place at the luncheon. Entry fee is $80 (players get a tax receipt for $40) and non-players can attend the luncheon at a cost of $45.

The tournament is well supported by the tennis community: Tennis Manitoba supplies tennis balls for the event at no cost, and Taylor Tennis Club and Winnipeg Winter Club don’t charge a rental fee for the courts.

The Tennis For Charity committee members are Gaylene Chesnut, Theresa Parrish, Darlene Lee, Patti Lacey, Greta McLean-Wood and Maureen Diamond.

“It’s very intense from August 1 until the tournament,” Chesnut said of the preparations for the tournament, which takes place each year in September.

The committee works hard to secure sponsors and recruit players. Local charities continue to benefit from that hard work as Tennis For Charity moves into its 21st year.

“It’s just a lot of fun,” said Chesnut. “The women, we work well together.”

Anyone looking to get involved with Tennis For Charity can contact Gaylene at 204-284-6441 or Greta at 204-771-8124.