They say you can’t go home, but that’s exactly what we did on Saturday, September 27, 2014, we returned to Joint Base Andrews for our
second T3 event there. While many of the faces have changed, some remained and it was like going home again. Charles, Lt. Colonel Dan Huckins, Colonel Dan Waters, his wife Liz and their twins Jessica and Josh felt like family. So, it was with great anticipation that we packed up the F150 on Wednesday and headed north.
Everything was running with military efficiency when I turned around to make sure the patriotic Wreaths by Dawn weren’t getting smashed in the back seat…..they weren’t getting smashed because they weren’t there. I had forgotten to pack them. After several frantic phone calls to my Dad and Art at Pak Mail in Wellington, Fl., it was resolved. For a mere Bazillion dollar, we would have the wreaths shipped two day air (you don’t even want to know how much over night would have cost). Crisis averted. Thanks Art and Dad Jaime.
After dinner at Taco Lu’s in Jacksonville with our son Spencer and his roommate Sean (boy, college boys sure can eat!), we got back into the truck and arrived at JBA Thursday afternoon. The weather was a cool 69 degrees, but the weather report for Saturday was promising, 78 degrees with lots of sun.
Isaac Melendez, Charles Stevenson and Jason Creech met us at the courts to do a preliminary walk-through on Friday morning. Shortly thereafter, we met Lt. Colonel Colin Huckins for lunch at the on-base golf course, followed by a tour of the base. JBA is known for housing Air Force One. We were able to drive past the private hanger and private landing strip where the plane is housed. There is even a private entrance for the Presidential Motorcade. It’s really amazing.
Here’s an interesting fact, since there is a lot of air traffic on base, all the lakes and ponds on base are covered by large nets to keep flocks of birds from hanging out there. Large flocks of birds are a danger to aircraft, as they can get sucked into the plane’s engines. Speaking of wild life, Lt. Colonel Huckins was kind enough to pull over on Perimeter Road while I rescued a red bellied slider turtle. Dick, I’m sure, was cringing in the front seat.
We enjoyed lunch at the golf club and loved meeting the General Manager of the club, Mike Thomas, a fellow jelly bean connoisseur.
Mario and Steve Contardi arrived from Cincinnati, along with Ellen Stone from North Carolina, my sister Joy and her boys, PJ and Matthew from New York. Lt. Colonel Huckins kindly invited us to the Family Fun Day on Friday and the boys enjoyed rock climbing, playing corn hole and face painting. What an incredible afternoon.
We cannot thank Liz and Colonel Dan Waters enough for their help, kindness and hospitality. Last year Liz appeared out of nowhere and helped promote our first event at JBA. This year she not only helped in that area, but she had all of us over for a delicious dinner at her house. Thank goodness Colonel Waters found us wandering around the neighborhood, lost and unable to find their house only blocks away! Thank you Waters Family!
Saturday morning arrived full of sunshine and promise. Volunteers dressed in navy shorts and gold T- shirts appeared and were a force to be recognized. LS1 Darren Littleon, LS1 Vakita Crawford, LS2 Paul Nguyen and LS2 Phillip Smith stayed all morning and helped us set up the courts. A special thanks goes out to LS1 Darren Littleton. He stayed ALL DAY, climbing fences, picking up balls, running water to the pros and participants, setting up, breaking down and everything in between. I only hope that his sunburn isn’t too bad today! Thank you Darren!
Special thanks go out to Lt. Sarah Turner. Not only did she stay all day as well, but she chauffeured us to and from the security gate for three days. She and her group of volunteers were friendly, helpful, willing to do any task and made our jobs so much easier. JBA II is our 6th event, and yet we are still overwhelmed by the willingness to help shown by all. So, here is yet another Shout Out Thank You: Charles MacDonald, Shannon Moore, Dennis Robisky Leeland Turner, Christian Clark.
Meg and John Hauge, their son David and his coach David Paulina joined T3 this year and set up chess tables under a beautiful, old oak tree beside the courts. They had 20 people sign-up for chess, but it appeared they had double that amount throughout the day as they learned how to play chess, or master a new move. What an incredible experience. I have always felt that tennis is like a game of chess, before making a move a player needs to think out several other moves and possibilities in advance. Meg and the foundation “Chess Challenge in DC” were a wonderful compliment to the tennis. We cannot thank them enough. Please visit her foundation’s website and pick up a chess board- you can play it anywhere, with anyone.
I would also like to point out that a must-see movie about chess, “Brooklyn Castle” is available on Netflix. Without giving anything away, you will be blown away by this short, but moving movie.
Sometime this past spring, Dick was contacted by Helen Hyun. Helen’s daughter, Kaitlyn Hyun, is a 15 year old high school tennis player in Falls Church, Virginia. She plays tennis at the Four Star Tennis Academy and attends church at the CCPC church in Centerville, VA. She collected over 30 racquets and since the spring, and had the idea that she would give them to a military recreational center. I asked her how she got that generous and brilliant idea and here’s what she said, “I love tennis and I wanted to share that love of the game. I know some military families and I know that life is hard for them, always moving around, so I wanted to do something for them.”
Kaitlyn not only donated some racquets to the West Fitness Center at JBA, but she also gave away some racquets to participants of the T3 event who immediately fell in love with the game, and needed equipment. What an amazing young lady! Please send good vibes Kaitlyn’s way as she prepares for her high school spring season. Her school has a very good team, and according to Kaitlyn, “We almost won States.” Well, Kaitlyn, I know I’m joined by everyone at T3 and at JBA in wishing you luck, and thanking you for being such a pro-active and forward thinking young adult. Thank you Kaitlyn, Helen and Tyler, Kaitlyn’s younger brother. All three stayed all day and volunteered both on and off the court. Yet another awesome family.
This year we were all fortunate enough to meet four outstanding young men from the United States Naval Academy and their Associate Head Coach, John Moreland. Midshipman Tucker Massie (Bloomfield Hills, MI), Midshipman Thomas Pecor (Houston, TX), Midshipman Walker Sims (Memphis, TN) and Midshipman Tyler Tossavainen (Fleming Island, FL) were generous with their time and tennis expertise. They were tireless on the courts and I know that everyone appreciated having them there.
Once again, an event is only as good as its volunteers. I am always amazed by the dedication of the pros. They are able to connect with the players and get many of the participants to fall in love with the game as a result of their enthusiasm. Thank you Tommy Wade, who traveled all the way from Alabama. He was joined by his lovely daughter Elizabeth and her husband, Colin. Thank you Elizabeth, for sharing your tireless father with us. We are blessed to have him join us.
Thank you to my sister Joy. She is my best friend, fashion consultant, partner in crime and means everything to me. She and her funny, talented and ADORABLE (Ok, ok, I’m allowed to brag about her kids) made the event all the more special. Joy has a doctorate in physical therapy, played tennis for Tulane University on a four year full ride and is a good teaching pro as well. Abrigado!
How can we thank the Contardis? Mario and Steve drove in from Ohio and ran the event for us. Steve looks at a list, organizes names and levels of abilities and then tells everyone where to go and what to do….and it all goes off without a hitch. I am in awe of the Contardis. THANK YOU!
Another shout out to local pros Damon Austin, Bobby Hollins, Zach Tobias and Patrick Moss. It’s always great to see a familiar face, and Damon, you are definitely a part of the T3 family. THANKS GUYS!
Not only is Richey Renneberg one of the great American tennis players, he is an incredibly humble and quite presence on the court. If I won as many titles as he did,and if I owned the Number One Doubles Ranking in the world, you know I’d be branding that information on a blinded-out T Shirt. He hit with anyone who asked, coached all the players on his court tirelessly and the smile never left his face. Richey, thank you and please join us for another T3 event (and hit with me next time please!!)
Once again, the USO pulled up n their food truck and served hot dogs, chips, fruit, water and jelly beans. They donated all the baseball hats and goody bags. Jake and Martha spent the entire day at JBA with us, and only packed up after the last clinic got on the court. They played great tunes all day and made sure everyone had water, food and was satisfied. THANK YOU doesn’t quite cover it. We are honored and humbled to be partners with the USO in our T3 ventures.
You are probably reading this blog on the T3 Facebook page, or on our website,www.theblueskyfoundation.com. I promise you, the pictures that you see have nothing to do with me! We met Trevor Chan at JBA last year and he has been a member of our T3 family ever since, our official photographer, web manager and consultant. We’ve happily adopted all of his family as well! His wife, Joy, beautiful baby girl Skye, sister Vivian, and brothers Jonathan and Alvin were a part of the JBA event this Saturday. Every time I asked Trevor to “get a shot of so and so,” he would calmly smile and say, “I already did Liz, but I’ll take another one if you want.’” I would punch me, Trevor just laughs on the inside and takes all the pictures I would have wanted to take myself. THANK YOU Trevor! And thanks for letting me hold Skye Lin, a highlight of my weekend.
No blog or thank you would be complete without a heartfelt and very special thank you to Ellen Stone. Ellen has been with us on this journey from the very beginning. She and Dickie go back a long way, and we are honored and touched by her dedication, friendship and dignity. Thank you Ellen. xox
As I out this blog to bed and post the final pictures from JBA, we are getting ready to make the journey to Joint Base Randolph in San Antonio, Texas on October 16th. “On the road again….” please join us!
THANK YOU ONE AND ALL!
Now check out all the pictures from the event below!