WTEF Tennis Ball 2016 Enters the Record Book!

It was a night to remember as more than 650 friends, supporters and guests of the Washington Tennis & Education Foundation gathered together at our annual gala: Tennis Ball 2016.  The events of the day generated more than $1.2 million for the critical programs and services offered at WTEF to some of the city’s most deserving children and youth.

The pounding rain couldn’t stop the excitement from building as more than 60 players gathered at WTEF’s East Capitol Campus for the VIP Round Robin.  Team Bradford, led by NBC4 General Manager Jackie Bradford, took home the bragging rights but all enjoyed a spirited competition.

Later that day, the evening’s events unfolded at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel where cocktails and a silent auction welcomed our guests.  Citi was once again the Presenting Sponsor of the Tennis Ball, making a major gift to help underwrite the event and fuel its success. A mini-live auction kept the momentum going before guests entered the Grand Ballroom for the program and dinner.

WTEF bestowed its Lifetime Achievement Award on philanthropists Sylvia and Saul Ritzenberg, whose support was instrumental to the creations of WTEF’s East Capitol Campus. Jim Ritzenberg and Cathy McCulloch accepted the award on behalf of their parents, who have both passed away. U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito was presented the William H.G. Fitzgerald Distinguished Service Award and Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee was given WTEF’s Life Champion Award.  Both women spoke movingly of the need for programs like those offered by WTEF.

Highlighting the evening’s program was Alumna Speaker Donna Johnson, who spoke of her experiences at WTEF and how those events shaped her future.  Having graduated from Virginia State University, which she attended with tennis and athletic scholarships and where she studied criminal justice, she now works in security for the United States Department of State. 

Current student participant Antonio Ausbon spoke of the “second home” he has found at WTEF after the tragic loss of his older brother and then, just a year later, his mother. Antonio recalled how much it meant to him to have WTEF to turn to every afternoon after school for the last three years, since we opened our East Capitol Campus near his home. Antonio has emerged as a leader among the youth in our Center for Excellence program. 

The evening’s program continued with a spirited appeal called “Fund a Future,” when attendees are asked to make a financial contribution to WTEF to support its award-winning programs.  Fueled by two generous matching contributions, the final total topped the $300,000 mark, by far the highest total ever at the Tennis Ball!