IMG_1483Some military bases are lucky to have an ideal location.  MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida is one such base.  It is located on the Tampa Bay and couldn’t have better views.  Thanking Our Troops through Tennis was honored to hold our second event of 2015 at MacDill this Saturday.

MacDill has two beautiful courts that sit nestled between glorious oak trees at the edge of the water.  The courts’ proximity to the water provided a cooling breeze throughout the day, as well as gorgeous views.  Bayshore Boulevard wraps around the base, hugging the water on one side and beautiful homes on the other.  The homes are built up on lattice enclosed areas and I can’t imagine what it must be like to live in one of those homes over-looking the bay.

IMG_5668I am always blown away by the kindness and generosity shown to us by the volunteers at our events.  I will start my shout-outs by thanking the USO first, our partner from the inception of T3.

Over a 5 hour period we had 104 kids, juniors and adults participate in the event.  Once again, the USO outdid themselves by providing lunch from Tijuana Flats.  A special thank you goes out to Kris Kimberly, who had to juggle and improvise at the last minute to make sure that we even had lunch…another special shout-out goes to Manager Johnny at the Platt Street Tijuana Flats for helping Kris save the day.

I enjoyed working with all the USO volunteers; Carmen and Anthony Fiorito, their adorable grandson, Niklas Andreasen, Alexandra Otero Mahjouri, and Amparo.

Thank you Sandra Abelia for EVERYTHING you did leading up to the event, during the event and then afterwards.  Without a doubt, you were instrumental in its success and if not for your belief in us, we would have never pulled this off.  Thank you.

Thank you to Sergeant Samantha Farrell as well.  She was one of the busiest staffers there and her help was invaluable.

Base volunteers Gerald Brown, Taylor Deany and Bob Talle were on board all day to help with anything and everything, plus they stuck around for take- down, making it go that much faster.

It was a pleasure and honor to meet Colonel Danile H. Tulley, Wing Commander and Lt. Colonel Tamara Duke, Commander 6th Force Support Squadron.  Thank you both for allowing us to come onto your base and play tennis with the families that live there.

T3 MacDill AFB 2015 138How lucky were we that the famous Dave Kozlowski from “Inside Tennis with the Koz”  and his cameraman/producer Bob were able to film and interview participants throughout the event?  I loved meeting Dave, his wife Carolyn and Bob, but I especially loved speaking with them off camera as well. We are looking forward to seeing what they put together!

JoAnne Russell holds the record for most T3 appearances.  She is one of the most energetic and knowledgeable pros I know.  We have to find new ways to thank you, JoAnne.

Ira Peskowitz, otherwise known to us as “Officer Ira,” is equally as energetic.  He always has new and exciting drills for the participants and is a popular pro at T3’s events.  We thank you Ira.

_Group21Jaime and Dawn de Carvalho have been teaching tennis more years than they care to admit, and without a doubt, are my favorite pros (they also happen to be my parents!).  Thank you for making the long voyages with us, thank you for making the game so easy and so much fun for everyone.  xoxox

Mark Wirth has quickly begun to feel like a member of our family.  We relentlessly tease him, and he dishes it right back.  This was his second event with T3 and I cannot imagine doing an event without him…despite almost losing him to the intense humidity, he hung in there and stayed on his feet.  #GoHotChoklit!

_Group20Roberto Castillo and his sons Gabrielle and Lucas joined us for the first time.  Roberto would still be out there teaching if we didn’t make him stop!  The kids and adults on his court immediately fell in love with him.  I love his boys.  Somehow he and his wife Paola managed to raise amazing tennis players, as well as kind, polite and respectful kids.  I hope their oldest son  Sebastian can join us next time.  Thank you, Castillos.

Donna Bernstein and Doctor Gideon Lewis joined us as well.  Donna has been an enthusiastic supporter of T3 and we thank her for all her help, kindness and generosity.  Donna is a champion for many causes, and Wheelchair Sports is one of them.  Thank you Donna for all you do. Dr. Gideon is the orthopedic foot doctor for the Orlando Magic and is traveling to the Rio Olympics to be one of the doctors for our Olympians.  Donna and Gideon were with us from the time the first ball was struck, until the very last one was loaded into The Beast (the F150 that hauls us and the equipment all over the United States).  Thank you Donna and Gideon.

Without pictures, my blogs and our ability to promote these events would probably not be as descriptive.  Trevor Chan (www.trevorkchan.com) has done an incredible job for us behind the lens of his enormous cameras.  He is always at the right place at the right time to capture the right moment.  I have finally given up asking him (annoyingly so), “Trevor, would you please get the shot of the little girl in the pink tutu with the orange Converse hi-tops dragging a racquet across the court?” simply because he already got the shot.  Thank you Trevor.

_Group18This event was especially fun for me because we were lucky enough to have Flo Scher and Diana Walker join us.  Diana designed and made the participants shirts, as well as the beautiful blue pros shirts.  Flo generously donated them all. This event was called “Boots on the Court” and if you look at the design on the front of the players’ shirts and the backs of the pros’ shirts, you’ll see why they were a huge hit.  People were requesting to buy more!

Flo was tireless working the Registration table, and I can honestly say that I have never seen anyone work the Survey Collection job the way Diana did!  Thank you both so much.  Please come to more events with us!

T3 MacDill AFB 2015 121Here’s an interesting story; in all my years of animal rescue, I have never heard this line, “Oh, this is our dog Trixie.  We rescued her from the jungles in Guam.”  Wow.  Since outlawing greyhound racing, the racetracks turned loose all their dogs into the jungles.  They call them “jungle dogs” and that is where they live.  Some people in the military community routinely round up some of the stray animals, rehabilitate them and adopt them out.  Trixie is one lucky dog.

A confidential and secretive thank you goes out to Drew.  You made the day much easier!

Please take a look at the pictures Trevor posted and keep in mind that we will be back on the road returning to Ft. Jackson, SC  on May 9, 2015.

THANKS EVERYONE!