The season of fundraising is upon us, and this Thanksgiving week, charity work is foremost on the minds of many former and current top tennis players. To recognize those efforts on this distinctly American holiday, ESPN.com presents a sampling of homegrown tennis stars who give back.
Harlem (N.Y.) Junior Tennis and Education Program
The Harlem program, founded in 1972, serves about 150 children ages 7 to 18 from low-income inner city neighborhoods during each school year and about double that in summer camps. Adams, a commentator and former WTA player who won 21 doubles titles on the circuit, is the organization's executive director. Aside from tennis instruction for levels from beginner on up, the HJTEP offers after-school academic tutoring, SAT preparation, computer classes and guidance in areas including personal hygiene, financial management and nutrition. There is also an active parents' association. In tough economic times, Adams said the program is simply trying to maintain what it has rather than expand. Roughly one-quarter of the program's participants are awarded college tennis scholarships. James Blake is among the program's alumni.
The Leslie Allen Foundation/Win 4 Life
Allen's program, based in Charleston, S.C., is designed to introduce middle and high school students to different career paths through tennis. The students work intensively for a three-month period, shadowing professionals in business, administrative, public sector and communications jobs related to a WTA tournament in the area, as well as receiving academic support and participating in life skills seminars and recreational programs. They also interact with students at local colleges. Allen, who graduated from the University of Southern California with honors, is a former top-20 player whose WTA title in Detroit in 1981 was the first by an African-American woman since Althea Gibson in 1958. She said her goal is to restart a similar program she ran in New York until a few years ago, and to establish a summer camp with the same principles.
Thomas Blake Sr. Memorial Research Fund (at Sloan-Kettering)
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Blake has been holding annual offseason fundraisers and donating the proceeds to cancer research for a number of years (a total of $1.5 million thus far). In 2008, he decided to establish an earmarked fund under the auspices of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in honor of his father, who died of stomach cancer in 2004. The fund supports research to accelerate the development of promising treatments and techniques, especially for early diagnosis of cancer. This year's benefit for the fund will be held in New York on Dec. 1 and features an exhibition match between Blake and Andy Roddick, and a concert by Wyclef Jean. More information on the event and the fund is available on the Sloan-Kettering website. Blake, winner of 10 career ATP titles, hit a career-high No. 4 in 2006 and was a member of the U.S. Davis Cup team that won the 2007 championship.
The Todd Martin Development Fund
Martin's hometown of Lansing, Mich., has always been vulnerable to economic ups and downs because of its dependence on the auto industry and other manufacturing, and the former top-10 player said the current needs to help children of low-income families is greater than ever. A chapter of the U.S. Tennis Association's National Junior Tennis and Learning Program, Martin's fund supports tennis instruction, after-school programs in academic tutoring and leadership skills for about 600 children ages 8 to 18 annually, as well as a summer program that includes field trips to sports and cultural destinations. The organization's annual fundraising event will be held in Lansing the weekend of Dec. 4-5 and features exhibition tennis with two-time Grand Slam finalist Martin, NCAA champion Devin Britton and ATP veteran Jeff Morrison.
The Andy Roddick Foundation
Roddick's foundation targets abused, neglected and disadvantaged children in two areas he calls home: central Texas and southeastern Florida. The group holds annual fundraising events in Austin, Tex., where Roddick lives (Nov. 30, sold out), and Boca Raton, Fla. (Dec. 12-13) where he went to high school. Funds are distributed to outreach and children's health care organizations with the stipulation that they go directly to children and not be used for operational expenses such as staff salaries. Roddick, an ATP top-10 player for the past eight years, dedicated Davis Cup player, 2003 U.S. Open winner and finalist in four other Grand Slam events, started his foundation at age 19 in 2001, inspired by his mentor Andre Agassi, who told Roddick he regretted starting his own charity work so late in his career.
Baltimore Community Foundation Tennis Challenge
Rather than operating her own foundation, Shriver supports two separate funds -- one with her own money, the other with proceeds from an annual tennis exhibition in her hometown of Baltimore -- under the umbrella of the Baltimore Community Foundation. Since 1992, the BCF has distributed $4 million raised or donated by Shriver to a plethora of local agencies and non-profit organizations, chiefly child-oriented, considering different requests and needs each year. Shriver, a 21-time Grand Slam doubles champion, Olympic doubles gold medalist and currently an ESPN analyst, initially directed her charitable efforts toward cystic fibrosis research before electing to try to serve a broader base. The annual BCF Tennis Challenge will be held on Dec. 9 in downtown Baltimore and will be headlined by John Isner, Melanie Oudin and the Bryan brothers.
MaliVai Washington Kids Foundation
The 1996 Wimbledon finalist has achieved one of the most ambitious goals of any recent tennis philanthropist -- making a tangible, dynamic and continuing contribution to one of the most economically depressed neighborhoods in Jacksonville, Fla. Washington's foundation, established in 1997, spearheaded the construction of a $3 million, 9,000-square-foot youth center that opened last year and features eight tennis courts, a gym, classrooms, a library and a computer center. A large, varied menu of academic, life skills and tennis programs, as well as a summer camp, are based at the center for children from first grade through high school. Parental involvement is required in the form of community service and attendance at family nights. The foundation also does community outreach and holds several fundraising events every year.
Bonnie D. Ford covers tennis and Olympic sports for ESPN.com. She can be reached at email@example.com.