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On Tuesday, September 1, the CityParks Foundation of New York City held its annual CityParks Tennis Benefit, co-chaired by Billie Jean King and John McEnroe. Held each year during the US Open, the event took place at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows.

For the attendees, the evening was divided into four sections: reception and silent auction, dinner and awards presentation, live auction and then it was time for the evening matches. It gave CityPark donors time to bid on some great items, dine and socialize, as well as plenty of enough time to enjoy the evening matches.

Tennis legends were also on-hand during the event. John McEnroe and his band played during the reception and silent auction. During the dinner, Mary Carillo and Billie Jean King gave entertaining and inspiring speeches. Billie Jean talked about her deep connection with CityParks Tennis. She was one of the founding members and was very proud of what the organization has achieved. The speech section of the evening culminated with Carmen Ramirez receiving the Billie Jean King Junior Award and with Benjamin Doller receiving the Vitas Gerulaitis Community Service Award. Ms. Ramirez from Queens, New York, is a 17-year-old who has been a student of the CityParks program for seven years. She gave an inspiring speech about how the program has influenced her life. She has big dreams. Thanks, in part, to CityParks, she plans to attend college on a tennis scholarship.

During the reception, John McEnroe made sure he reminded the attendees about why they were there. While his band was playing, he encouraged the audience with lighthearted but earnest requests to participate in the silent auction and to donate generously to the CityParks Tennis program. He even offered a personal lesson. His encouragement must have been successful because the benefit raised over $300,000 for the program. This is the second highest amount in the event’s history.

The annual event raises important funds for CityParks Tennis. CityParks Tennis celebrates its 20th year anniversary this year. The program is a free youth instructional program that serves over 7,500 children in parks throughout New York City. It is one of the largest municipal tennis programs in the country. CityParks Tennis provides free tennis lessons to thousands of New York City’s kids ages 5 to 16. The program reaches over 7,500 kids in 40 parks in all five of New York City’s boroughs. The program encourages kids to be physically fit and develop self confidence. The program is available to kids at all skill levels from beginner lessons to organized tournaments.

The program has been massively successful. It has an advanced training academy, which offers talented youth in financial need the chance to bring their game to a higher competitive level. Hundreds of graduates from this program have earned college athletic scholarships, as well as sectional and national rankings. The program has also produced two players who have gone on to play on the junior level at the US Open.

To learn more about the CityParks Tennis program and to donate, click here.

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