Benefit tennis tournament to begin today


Published: Friday, January 30, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 10:32 p.m.

The fight against cancer is bringing former Wimbledon finalists to Gainesville.

The inaugural Climb for Cancer Foundation Tennis Tournament, Clinic and Exhibition will begin today. Then on Saturday, four Wimbledon finalists or champions will compete in an exhibition tournament.

MaliVai Washington, a past Wimbledon finalist, Ricardo Acuna, a Wimbledon quarter finalist, Todd Martin, a U.S. Open finalist and Wimbledon semifinalist, and Brian Gottfried, Wimbledon and French Open doubles champion, will play in the exhibition Saturday beginning at 6 at Westside Park.

Proceeds will benefit the University of Florida Shands Cancer Center and the UF College of Medicine Pediatric Oncology Division.

Ron Farb, founder of Climb for Cancer, said he gathered the four tennis players together for one common cause: children.

Farb said that working at a camp for children with cancer 17 years ago first made him realize how beautiful and brave these children are. Volunteering and donating his money was not enough, he said, so he started up Climb for Cancer, which is based in Gainesville.

William Slayton, interim chair and assistant professor for the Hematology and Oncology Pediatric Department at Shands at UF, said he is indebted to the services the Climb for Cancer Foundation has provided.

The foundation "has significantly helped to fund research grants and has assisted underprivileged patients with funding through proceeds that resulted from events they create," Slayton said.

Assistance has included food and transportation aid for families focusing on their children's health.

"These families are drained of all resources when dealing with this disease," Farb said. "Their number one priority is providing for their ill children and the last thing they need to worry about is finding money for their basic necessities, like food and parking."

Today's event consists of different age divisions playing tennis at 4 p.m.

In addition to the Wimbledon finalists, local tennis professionals will team up to conduct a tennis clinic at 4 p.m. Saturday, followed by the exhibition.

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