Celebrity Council members Evert, Roberts, Bennett praise work of USTA Foundation

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March 6, 2017 01:53 PM

By Ashley Marshall

The USTA Foundation added former 18-time women's Grand Slam women's singles champion Chris Evert, 19-time Grammy Award-winning music icon Tony Bennett and news anchor and former sportscaster Robin Roberts to its celebrity council in 2016.

The Foundation caught up with the three celebrities to discuss the vital work it does to help under-resourced youth and serve up dreams to children in need.

Why did you decide to join the USTA Foundation’s Celebrity Council?

Evert: As a retired professional tennis player, first of all I had the time. When you're playing you don't do as many charity functions because you're busy, but I think that after I played tennis I realized how fortunate I was having a profession where I had a passion and made a great living and I got to travel the world. It was a privileged life, and at some point it was time to give back. It's all about giving back because a lot of people need help in a lot of ways, and I feel like the USTA has a great program.

Roberts: Tennis, and athletics in general, was a huge source of inspiration, drive and importance in my own life. The USTA Foundation seeks to bring tennis and education in order to change lives for the better, and I fully believe in that mission.

Bennett: I think the game of tennis is a wonderful sport as it combines athleticism, mental strategy and a high level of sportsmanship. I was honored to be asked to join the Council, as I love promoting the game of tennis as much as possible.
 
Why is it important to you to partner with an organization which makes a difference in the lives of under-resourced populations?

Evert: I was brought up at a public facility and we didn't have much money growing up. We didn't belong to a country club or go to a tennis academy. My dad was the teaching tennis pro at Holiday Park, which was public, and there are a lot of kids that love the game and a lot of kids that have so much talent but don't have the funds to pursue our dreams. That's our responsiblity to make their dreams come true because our dreams have already come true.

Bennett: I am a humanist, and I believe that we are all here on this planet to help one another and to share the benefits of what we have with everyone whenever possible. Since I love tennis so much, it is important to make the ability to play tennis available to others who may not have access to courts, instructors or equipment, and that is what the USTA Foundation accomplishes for so many.
 
There are a lot of philanthropic organizations out there. Why should donors choose the USTA Foundation?

Roberts: The USTA Foundation brings fun, discipline and heart in the form of tennis to those who need it most. Empowering people to get up, move and overcome odds is one of the most powerful gifts one can give. That is why I am a donor and why I am a proud council member.

Bennett: I think the game of tennis, particularly because of the level of good sportsmanship that it requires, makes players better citizens and that is saying a lot so it is probably the single most compelling reason I can think of to encourage people to support tennis and the USTA Foundation.

Evert: Because the kids are American. Because it's healthy and it keeps them off the street and out of trouble. Because it gives them goals to reach and it gives them self-esteem.

What’s your favorite aspect about the work the Foundation does?

Bennett: My wife and I created a non profit, Exploring the Arts, to bring a high level of arts education and resources to public high schools, so I most appreciate that the USTA focuses on high school students and, through tennis, encourages them to stay healthy, stay in school and attend college.

Evert: Probably when I see the smiles on the kids' faces. When they're able to get that extra training they never dreamed they'd be able to get. Or when they get to go to matches like this (World Tennis Day) where the top players in the world are playing and they're exposed to the top of tennis and they're as hungry and eager and appreciative of what's being given to them. It warms my heart to see that this help is happening with the unprivilegded and under-economic children. It's seeing the dream come true for them. It's heartwarming.
 
Can you share any stories about your personal involvement with the sport of tennis, either as a player or an ambassador? 

Evert: I have my own foundation [Drug Abuse Foundation], which is for the prevention of drug abuse, and we've done that for 27 years and we've raised over $21 million to fund a lot of drug rehabs in south Florida. It's about helping people that neeed help but that can't help themselves.

Roberts: As a little girl, I used to dream of playing on the grass courts of Wimbledon. I would even curtsy and eat strawberries and cream to make the dream seem more real. Years later, I got the call from ESPN to cover the tournament. I had a moment when I stepped onto that green, I realized that I may not have made it as a player, but I did make it to Wimbledon with a microphone in my hand.

Bennett: It’s been a thrill for me to meet so many incredible tennis players over the years and to attend matches at the US Open or Wimbledon. I celebrated my 90th birthday [last] year, but tennis is a sport that you can play even as you get older into your later years of life, so I have loved playing the game and meeting people through this wonderful sport.

 

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