It took seven years, countless volunteer hours and unwavering dedication.
But on Saturday, the tireless club members at Bonita Bay reached their goal by raising more than $1 million for Barbara’s Friends to fund a pediatric pharmacy at the new Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.
Proceeds from the weekend’s FineMark Tour Players Tennis Classic pushed the early total raised to $1,065,032. They had donated $738,000 toward the pledge in the first six years.
“Oh, this is a special event,” said Tennis Channel commentator and 19 Grand Slam title winner Fred Stolle, who has been participating in the event since the beginning. “It’s a weekend we all look forward to. We come here for a great cause. You get goosebumps just watching what they do here.”
“I really enjoy coming back,” added six-year participant and two-time Wimbledon doubles champ Don Johnson. “One, the people in the community are special. We become friends and it’s nice to see them each year. Also they continuously go with Barbara’s Friends — Golisao Hospital, which is terrific. Sometimes you go to different places and it’s a different charity each year. With this one it’s always the same.”
The Tour Players Tennis Classic began in 2007 with 20 members putting in $2,000 in seed money. The goal was to see if they could make a difference for local children and their families and Barbara’s Friends was selected as the beneficiary.
“We started off this event with four pros,” said Stolle. “But then they just went from there. The more they do, the better we like it.”
And it shows.
The 25-plus pros participating in the Classic were highly accessible, friendly and ready to talk to fans as if they are old friends. If you’re a movie buff, Jessica Steck was the one to talk to — she was pulling for “12 Years a Slave” at the Academy Awards.
“It was very moving, touching, heartbreaking,” said Steck. “You must definitely see it.”
College basketball fan? Johnson would have been happy to give you his NCAA Tournament winner.
“It will be someone that’s not a No. 1 or 2 seed,” he said. “It’ll be a team that gets hot at the right time.”
Oh, and if you wanted to talk Olympics, former Australian Open doubles champions Scott Davis and David Pate were the ones to chat with.
“I watched as much as I could,” said Davis, who snowboards plenty despite living in Southern Calif., as does Vegas resident Pate. “I watch the skiing. I think to watch it on TV, the skiing is actually more exciting, but I can relate to the snowboarding a little more cause that’s what I do.”
If the folks at Bonita Bay do it again next year, they will meet in a week to review this year’s event and pick a date for the next.
If there is an eighth annual Classic, be sure to save the date.
You won’t be disappointed.
• The USPTA Teaching Professionals 45-and-older exhibition tour will at Miromar on March 14 and Pelican Preserve on March 28.
• The last regular season Pro League matches before the playoff will be held Friday at Legends.
• Cape Coral Parks & Recreation’s Spring After School Tennis Program will run from March 10 through May 11. Levels include Tiny Tots ages 4-6, Juniors ages 7-9 and Juniors ages 10-16. The cost is $90 and it will be held at Jim Jeffers Park and the Cape Coral Yacht Club. Preregistration required. Call 574-0808 to sign up.
• The Estero Country Club is putting together a bus trip to the Sony Open in Key Biscayne on March 24. The cost is $70 for transportation and a day ticket. Call 267-7001 for details