Shelter Rock Tennis Club in Manhasset recently celebrated its seventh annual fund-raiser for breast cancer research, Play for P.I.N.K., raising $94,000 at the Aug. 11 event.
Event organizer and head tennis professional Robin Deitch-Nogrady of East Rockaway started the tournament shortly after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013.
“I’d been working at Shelter Rock since 1993, so this place became like family to me,” Deitch-Nogrady recalled. “I’d been playing tennis since I was a kid, I worked here seven days a week, and everybody was taken aback.”
Deitch-Nogrady first began playing tennis at age 8, won a scholarship to play at the University of South Carolina, and played in satellite tournaments before becoming an instructor at Shelter Rock, which has a membership of 175 families.
Shortly after her diagnosis, Deitch-Nogrady was approached by then-club President Lee Raisfield, who asked if she wanted to start an event at the club to benefit a breast cancer charity. After researching organizations with her husband, Deitch-Nogrady decided to launch a tennis tournament that would benefit Play for P.I.N.K., which raises money for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation through sporting events.
“One hundred percent of the proceeds go to research,” Deitch-Nogrady said. “We were glad that none of the money we raised would be paying someone’s salary, and we made $25,000 that first year.”
Since then the club has put on the event annually. The seventh tournament took place on Aug. 11.
In its current state, the event is composed of a daylong tennis tournament in three categories (men’s singles, women’s singles and mixed doubles) across the club’s 20 tennis courts, run by Deitch-Nogrady and fellow tennis pro Alex Valek, with water, banners, T-shirts and drawstring bags provided by the sponsors. Later that night, the club hosts a special dinner where winners are honored, raffles are announced, a silent auction is held and Deitch-Nogrady makes remarks.
Ellen Fuller of Woodbury, a 14-year member of the club, was asked by Deitch-Nogrady to assist with planning the first event in 2013.
“The two of us did not know what we were doing,” Fuller said with a laugh. “But in the years since, it’s gotten a lot easier.”
Fuller says the generosity of the club members, especially fellow planners Monica Liebman, Linda Gottlieb and Laura Genova, is the reason for the tournament’s increasing success.
“It started out small,” Fuller said. “We didn’t sell out the courts the first year. We sold some banners, some raffles. and eventually we added the silent auction and the bigger raffles. It took time to figure out what to do.”
The event’s success caused the national headquarters of Play for P.I.N.K. to contact Fuller, and she now assists other tennis clubs across the country in planning their own events.
Since its first tournament, Shelter Rock has raised more than $500,000 for Play for P.I.N.K., the most of any tennis club in the United States. Deitch-Nogrady herself has also succeeded in her own fight, entering remission after a club member who is an oncologist assisted her in getting treatment.
“It was unbelievable to me to have this amount of people come up to me and say they want to help,” Deitch-Nogrady said. “It’s something that I always appreciate.”