Local tennis association serves up hope

June 06, 2018
Cancer survivor Shirley Hunter
Shirley Hunter of the Pine Forest Ladies Tennis Association in Summerville participates in the Annual Racquets for Recovery tennis tournament benefiting breast cancer patients.

As Shirley Hunter stands on the tennis court, arm raised to serve the ball, she’s doing more than enjoying exercise and some friendly competition. She, along with others at the annual Racquets for Recovery tennis tournament, are part of a larger story impacting countless lives.

That became obvious last fall when Hunter and other tennis players had a tearful reunion with breast cancer survivors participating in a wellness program designed just for them called Survivors’ Fit Club. The program is offered by the Hollings Cancer Center in partnership with the MUSC Wellness Center.

The smiles and tears arose when players got to see the faces of women helped by their efforts to support the program, and the participants had a chance to say thank you. Hunter, who is a member of the Summerville Pine Forest Ladies Tennis Association, said the group has a history of raising money to support cancer survivors.

Each fall, the tennis association members gather their friends and resources to raise support for Hollings Cancer Center. Beyond the doubles tournament offering men’s, women’s and mixed matches, committee members also oversee a silent auction and dinner party, and fundraising activities throughout the year. One of their most visible efforts is Flocking for Funds. For the month of October, friendly plastic pink flamingos adorn the lawns of many homes in the Summerville area. The funds raised are used, along with the proceeds of the annual tennis tournament, to support the Survivors’ Fit Club.

For the women participating in these events, this is not just a fun activity with friends or a way to play their favorite sport. Racquets for Recovery was established in 2005 by several women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and their tennis mates. Realizing the unique needs patients face after treatments, they wanted to directly support local organizations working with breast cancer patients to improve the quality of their lives. The partnership with MUSC and Hollings Cancer Center soon began and the Survivors’ Fit Club was established.

Survivors' Fit Club
Members of the Survivors' Fit Club and Racquets for Recovery committee had an instant connection when the women shared how breast cancer impacted their lives.

Since Racquets for Recovery began, more of the players have faced their own breast cancer diagnosis or had friends and family members touched by this disease. With each person affected, the Summerville Pine Forest Ladies Tennis Association has another reason to press on. They find hope in every victory, seemingly small or large, and celebrate the lives of all throughout the tournament. 

As some have conquered their diseases and others have sadly passed away, those involved in Racquets for Recovery remain steadfast in their commitment. 

Hunter shared, “We have been touched by several friends who played tennis and were fighting breast cancer. We would see their struggle, playing on the court after hair loss, a port in their arm for their medication and their physical weakness. But nothing could bring us more joy than to see them smile when they could make it to the court.”

Because of these beloved friends, the women whose stories they heard at the Survivors’ Fit Club, and the knowledge they are truly helping change lives, this group will be back on the courts giving their all this November. Hunter added, “For many, it is like coming home to family and friends to celebrate the love of tennis and giving back to our community.”