Chris Evert and Kevin McKidd, 2013.
By Rachel Galvin
Since 1989, the Chris Evert Pro-Celebrity Tennis Classic has been bringing in professional tennis players and celebrities in to play together in the spirit of philanthropy.
Besides the pro-celebrity tennis at the Delray Beach Tennis Center and Boca Raton Resort & Club, there also are plenty of opportunities to meet the stars and pros at the Classic Cocktail Party, at the Pro-Celebrity Gala and at Tennis with Chrissie and Friends at the Pro-Am. The event will be held Nov. 21-23.
According to the public relations staff at the event, this year with bring in plenty of celebs, including TV personalities Gayle King, Hoda Kotb and Rob Marciano, singers Gavin Rossdale and David Cook, and actors Kevin McKidd Timothy Olyphant, Maeve Quinlan and Jon Lovitz. They will play against former tennis pros Martina Navratilova,
The first event was held in October 1989, one month after Ms. Evert’s final U.S. Open.
The program from the first event in 1989.
Her personal assistant, Tami Starr, said, “The first year was held at the Polo Club. Whitney Houston performed. For a couple of years, we built stands at the Boca Raton Resort and Club, then the Boca Country Club. [Now, the Delray Beach Tennis Center].”
Through the years, the event has stayed pretty much the same, said Starr, adding that it brings the celebs, pros and vendors back year after year.
The camaraderie on the court seems to keep onlookers entertained every year.
Ms. Evert’s sister, Jeannie Dubin, explained, “There is a lot of joking around. Jon Lovitz keeps the score. The players and celebs. wear mics on the court. It is a great event.”
The number of people who attend not only benefit the charities that Ms. Evert supports, but also the local area. Ms. Dubin said that people stop by on Atlantic Avenue to have a drink (or get something to eat) in between matches.
Rick Vach, the communications and marketing coordinator of the United States Tennis Association (USTA) said, “Celebrities come to the event year after year. It is fun to watch. The Delray Beach Tennis Center does a wonderful job. It is an incredible boon to the community.”
The steady attendance could be attributed to the popularity of the sport, according to Vach.
Jon Lovitz, Mats Wilander, Chrissie, Elisabeth Shue, Kevin McKidd.
He said, “Tennis is the top growing recreational sport in the last 10 years. The number of people playing is on a constant upswing.”
Besides sponsoring the Pro-Celebrity Classic, local businesses can also set up booths and showcase their products and services yearly as well.
The Tri-County Humane Society goes every year to show off their dogs that are up for adoption.
Co-founder Susie Goldsmith said, “We go back because the people who put it on are wonderful friends of the animals. They gave us this opportunity to have the animals there “taking center court.” People can see these beautiful dogs and come over and adopt; don’t shop. It is a win-win all the way around.”
The Humane Society dogs will receive a “Bow-to-Wow” makeover before being paraded in front of everyone in the stadium, escorted by event celebs.
But this is not the only animal-friendly event.
Dog lovers can get some love at the puppy kissing booth for only $1. The money helps the Humane Society.
In addition, man’s best friend shows off some skills at a special K-9 demonstration. Former Navy Seal Mike Ritland, who trains dogs for the military and law enforcement, will bring along his 3-year old Dutch Shepherd to do the demonstrations in between matches.
There is never a dull moment at the event, as there is plenty of entertainment to be enjoyed.
Illusionist Gary Goodman will perform at half-time.
Illusionist Gary Goodman looks forward to performing again this year. He has been part of the center court half-time entertainment for 10 years. He is familiar with performing at athletic functions; he also has worked for the Miami Heat for eight seasons.
“I will be doing grand illusions like you see in Las Vegas,” said Goodman, who performs magic full-time around the country. “I will be working with my female assistant. It will be six or seven minutes of fast-paced illusions.”
Kids can stop by the Festival du Soleil where they will find plenty of fun and games. They can event get their face-painted. Children 10 years and under receive free admission (must be accompanied by an adult).
Although the event is filled with fun, it all comes down to giving back to charity. Since its inception, the event has provided over $21.2 million toward fighting against drug abuse and child neglect in the state.
When asked why she started the event, Chris Evert said, “I wanted to give back as I have been so fortunate. I want to give people a second chance.”
She wanted to give back earlier in her career, but did not feel she could give enough time, opting instead to wait until she was able to devote more of herself to the cause and to oversee it.
Her first event helped The Drug Abuse Foundation of Palm Beach County open drug treatment facilities. She later joined with The Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida, a non-profit who helps to prevent issues like drug abuse by pregnant women and mothers. The governor at the time of the event’s inception, Governor Martinez, matched the funds Ms. Evert received, which doubled the funds afterward.
Last year, the event raised $600,000 dollars.
Lonnie Parizek, director of communications at Ounce of Prevention, said that Ms. Evert is “an outspoken advocate for something that affects the most vulnerable populations, such as children who are abused.”
She added that Ms. Evert also gives back through a scholarship [the Vitas Gerulaitis scholarship] for women and girls.
Ms. Parizek said, “It helps women to better themselves and get an education. Thirty-eight scholarships have been given. This year is the 39th. There are one to two [recipients] per year. Once or twice, it was three. [In order to apply for the scholarship], girls write an essay on their experiences, their goals and dreams.”
If you are ready to watch the matches, meet the celebrities and pros and enjoy the fun, buy your tickets quickly. To purchase tickets or for more information, call 561-394-2400, or visit www.chrisevert.org.
Event at a glance:
Tennis Pro-Am and Classic Cocktail Reception
Where: Boca Raton Resort & Club
When: Friday, Nov. 21
What: Mingle poolside with participants, enjoy music and sample the hors d’oeuvres while sipping on cocktails in style.
Where: Delray Beach Stadium & Tennis Center
When: Saturday, Nov. 22 & Sunday, Nov. 23
What: Play tennis with the pros and enjoy lunch with the participants.
Tickets: $20 general admission; $40 to $90, premium seating
Where: Boca Resort & Club
When: Saturday, Nov. 22
What: Dinner, dancing, live entertainment, as well as live and silent auctions.
Tickets: $750; sponsorship packets with other events available.