The first ever Sparta Dink for Pink Pickleball Tournament, an event to benefit the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, was held on the tennis courts at White County High School during the final weekend of October and to say it was a success would be an understatement.
“I am at a total loss for words,” Misty Shirley, the event organizer and a breast cancer survivor, said. “We had a total of 74 players from East, West, and Middle Tennessee come to this event and were able to exceed our financial goal. I am proud to say that after all expenses were paid, I will be mailing a check of $5,100 to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.”
Shirley said the idea for the tournament came after she saw a Pickleball for the Cure advertisement on her Facebook news page.
“I thought that this is a great purpose and that there was lots of fun to be had with this type of event,” Shirley, who just began playing pickleball last year and has participated in several fundraising tournaments for various causes since then, said. “Being a breast cancer survivor myself, I knew this would be something special.”
Shirley said in order to have an official Pickleball for the Cure event with the Susan G. Komen name attached to it, she had to first be approved by the foundation and that part of that approval was setting a high enough goal for the fundraising portion of the event.
“For the longest time, I had less than 20 people sign up for the tournament. I got frustrated, to be honest, and I had set the bar high for the donation to be given to Susan G. Komen. I knew there was a chance that I might not achieve it, but I had to try,” she said.
Shirley also stated that when preregistration for the tournament was going slow, in the beginning, she began to worry that the Dink for Pink Pickleball Tournament might not be a success, but as the registration deadline grew closer the numbers started climbing.
“I ended up extending the entry deadline because if someone wanted to play, that just meant more money for the foundation,” she said. “When we ended up with 74 players, I was extremely happy!”
When the players started checking in on the first day of the tournament, Shirley said it was an exciting moment, but that was definitely topped by the guests of honor who showed up.
“When I saw the breast cancer survivor ladies show up, that is what really made my weekend,” she said. “This whole tournament was for each of those ladies – and me.”
In addition to registration fees, the Dink for Pink Pickleball Tournament raised $1,000 through a “Dressed for Pink” dress up contest and collecting donations in honor or memory of people who had – or have – breast cancer.
“When I saw how many donations were given for the breast cancer ribbons that we were writing names on, I knew we would make that $5,000 goal,” Shirley said.
Of course, she said she couldn’t have managed the weekend and the Dink for Pink Pickleball Tournament without the support of sponsors that included Averitt Express, Bailey Tire Company, State Senator Paul Bailey, Red-Y Lock N Roll Storage, Aunt Lib’s Shine Shack, TLD Logistics, XPO Logistics, Crossville Tile Outlet Store, Diadem Pickleball Equipment, Luna & Son Tire Shop, Gary Maxwell Insurance of Sparta, First National Bank of Tennessee, Reign Storm Energy Drinks, and Culligan Water.
“Our local pickleball group – they’re the best,” Shirley said. “I could not have done this without all their help.”
Shirley said she is already looking forward to next year where she hopes that the 2nd Annual Dink for Pink Pickleball Tournament will be even bigger than the first. However, she has already seen the challenges that will come with that.
“Next year, the venue will be a challenge. I’ve been told that we will not be allowed on the tennis courts next year due to grant money restrictions,” she explained, expressing her desire to see something become available for the sport that is growing in popularity among recreational players of all ages. “I’ve played with kids that are 9 years old and adults that are over 80 years old, but we do not have any actual designated, permanent, pickleball courts here.”
Despite the challenge of finding a venue, Shirley is going to work on keeping the tournament local and to keep it growing for years to come.
“My hope Is to be able to keep this tournament in Sparta,” she said. “I’m looking forward to the 2nd Annual Dink for Pink Pickleball Tournament here.”
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