Pickleball fundraiser in Sandy Springs to help fight pediatric brain tumors

Ian's Friends Foundation is sponsoring an Inaugural Pickleball Doubles Tournament 1 to 6 p.m. April 24 at the Sandy Springs Tennis Center. (Courtesy S3 Living)

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Ian's Friends Foundation is sponsoring an Inaugural Pickleball Doubles Tournament 1 to 6 p.m. April 24 at the Sandy Springs Tennis Center. (Courtesy S3 Living)

Having watched her father-in-law, a pediatric dentist, die from a brain tumor, Wendi Aspes, Director of Marketing and Fundraising at Ian’s Friends Foundation (IFF), couldn’t image watching children battle the same disease. When Wendi learned through IFF that pediatric brain tumors are the #1 cause of death by disease in children under the age of 20, she felt compelled to join the fight.

According to Wendi, pediatric brain tumor research receives under 1% of federal funding from the National Institute of Health (NIH).

Cheryl and Phil Yagoda started IFF 15 years ago when their son Ian was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor at the age of two. The organization currently funds 30 projects in 32 research institutions around the globe. They have been awarded multiple awards and grants from the NIH. One project has received FDA Breakthrough Status with the hopes of full FDA approval by the end of this year.

To bring attention to their valuable research and raise much needed funds to keep it going, IFF is sponsoring an Inaugural Pickleball Doubles Tournament 1 to 6 p.m. April 24 at the Sandy Springs Tennis Center.

Wendi’s brother-in-law, Jason Aspes founded the online pickleball community called The Kitchen. Reason enough for Wendi to help plan a pickleball tournament, but why is pickleball the fastest growing sport in the country? (The Kitchen is the two-dimensional area on the pickleball court.)

“The barrier to entry is incredibly low,” said Jason. “Anyone can pick up a paddle and within an hour, be playing the game. In contrast to a similar sport, like tennis, it takes lots of lessons to be proficient.”

Although easier to play, pickleball is more strategic. “While athleticism matters, strategy can mitigate your opponent’s athleticism,” added Jason. “This allows any age, gender, body type or athleticism to compete at the highest levels.”

According to usapickleball.org, Pickleball was invented in 1965 in Washington state by a group of fathers looking to entertain their children. Working with an old badminton court, they lowered the net to resemble a tennis court and used ping-pong paddles to hit whiffle balls across the net. In 1976, the first pickleball tournament was held and by 1984 the United States Amateur Pickleball Association was organized and the first rulebook published.

Southeast Pickleball, Join Pickleball, Tucker Rec League, Sandy Springs Pickleball and Club Wars are just a few of the organized pickleball leagues in the metro area. This May one of the major pro tours will be in town, with over 1,000 players from all over the country competing.

But first, IFF is offering novices to “professionals” an opportunity to play and help fund valuable research to prevent death from childhood brain tumors. “We’re hoping for between 32-64 teams at the Sandy Springs Tennis Center, which has generously donated the space pro bono.” Wendi stated. “We have not set a fundraising goal for this event yet but every dollar we raise goes to the lifesaving research we fund.”

Register to participate at www.tinyurl.com/IFFpickleball. Learn more about IFF at www.iansfriendsfoundation.com.