MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- The ball raced over the net and across the tennis court. The players sprinted inside of their zones swinging their racquets swiftly as each competitor grunted with every successful return of the ball. With the tennis ball reaching a speed of approximately 128 MPH, there was no question that each player was giving their all.
Emotions flared when a call was close, showing the passion each player had for the sport, but their desire to win came from another cause.
The Armed Services YMCA invited Marines and their families to the grand opening of Stadium 2 in the Indian Wells Tennis Courts for the John McEnroe Challenge for Charity event which was held March 1.
The event consisted of world-famous players picking a charity to play for in the matches. All the prize money won was donated to the organization they were representing. The event included a ribbon-cutting ceremony, a performance by Palm Springs High School’s Spirit of the Sands jazz band, a color guard and the playing of the Star Spangled Banner.
John McEnroe was representing the War Casualty Family Assistance Fund which also supports programs in the ASYMCA. The program assists families of Marines going through difficult situations.
“The program helps Marines through tough times,” said Anita Neu-fultz, executive director, ASYMCA. “One example I can give is when a Marine’s wife had to be sent to a hospital that was far away and the program offered him assistance by paying for his lodging so he could be closer to her.”
An opportunity for military families to enjoy events and spend time together off base is good bridge the gap of time while loved ones are deployed.
“I think the timing of this event couldn’t have been better,” said Billie-Jo Yost, wife of Lt. Col. Seth Yost, commanding officer, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. “I try to participate in events like this as much as I can. The ASYMCA is so involved with the Marines on base and it’s so nice to know that families of Marines who are deployed have a place where they can find events to take part in.”
Excitement brought on by what the WCFAF and ASYMCA do for the military community compounded when coordinators found out professional athletes were not only taking notice of the program but also taking part.
“What I’m excited about is how much all the donors and athletes want to say thank you to service members by giving back to the military families through these programs,” Neu-fultz said. “It’s important for people to show appreciation to service members and their families. I think what the charity event and the athletes are doing today is great.”
During his singles match against Jim Courier, McEnroe raised 15,000 dollars for the WCFAF. Marines and their family had an opportunity to get away from the stresses of the military life and just enjoy a night where the only mission was to have fun and support a good cause.