Local tennis clubs participate in ‘Court the Cure’ for breast cancer


Colin Boyle/Daily Senior Staffer

Evanston Hospital, 2650 Ridge Ave. The North Shore Women’s Platform Tennis League hosted a fundraiser Thursday for NorthShore University HealthSystem’s breast cancer research.

Andrea Michelson, Reporter

More than 200 tennis players gathered at clubs across the North Shore on Thursday to raise money for breast cancer research at the 21st annual Court the Cure fundraiser.

The matches, held at 13 different clubs, were hosted by the North Shore Women’s Platform Tennis League to mark the start of Breast Cancer Awareness Month on Oct. 1. Overall, participants helped raise more than $17,000 for research this year, event co-chair Linda Ball said.

Ball’s co-chair, Debi Learner, said the fundraiser started in 1996 when a small group of breast cancer survivors decided to raise money for research by playing platform tennis. The sport is played on an elevated deck that is smaller than a regular tennis court.

The Court the Cure founders created an annual “play day” to kick off the platform tennis season, which lasts through the end of winter. Though the scale of the event has increased over the last 20 years, Learner said its intent has remained the same — to fund breast cancer research.

“Many women are playing in (Court the Cure) because obviously breast cancer touches so many women’s lives,” she said.“They’ve either battled breast cancer or have family members or loved ones who have.”

Money raised through the event supports breast cancer research led by Dr. Katharine Yao, chief of surgical oncology at NorthShore University HealthSystem.

NorthShore’s Center for Breast Health is the largest breast cancer practice in Illinois, serving more than 800 patients annually, according to the center’s website.

“(Yao) plays an integral part in our high-risk breast cancer clinic,” said Lisa Rietmann, director of philanthropy at NorthShore. “We have a number of different research projects going on including work in personalized medicine … so there’s a lot of cool work in prevention and early detection.”

Ball said she joined Yao’s study because she is at a increased risk for developing breast cancer. She said her sister passed away from the disease more than 10 years ago.

Ball also works as a platform tennis instructor at Winnetka Platform Tennis Club — one of Court the Cure’s participating locations. She shared her story at her club’s pro-amateur tournament, where amateur participants can pay an extra fee to play doubles with a local professional.

Marina Ohlmuller, director of platform tennis at Briarwood Country Club in Deerfield, also participated in the Winnetka tournament as a local professional. Ohlmuller said while she has not been personally touched by breast cancer, she came to support her friends and teammates who have been impacted by the disease.

“Whenever you get a couple hundred women together, it’s always a powerful force,” she said. “Platform tennis is such a great forum to do this, and anytime we can turn it around and make it do some good that’s awesome.”

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