On Saturday, November 13 at the famed Jack Kramer Club in Rolling Hills Estates, California, Tracy & John Austin (winners of the 1980 Wimbledon Mixed Doubles Crown) will present the 3rd Annual “Serve It Up To End MS” Pro-Am tournament to benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (Southern California Chapter) hosted by Tennis Master Teacher, Chris Ojakian. John Austin has MS, Chris’s father, brother and sister have MS — along with my friend and tennis partner Sandra Blair, who also has MS.
Multiple sclerosis is a bizarre disease—an enigma wrapped in a mystery that afflicts somewhere between 250,000 and 350,000 people in America. The disease is characterized by the immune system attacking itself and destroying the fatty myelin sheaths that protect the nerves in the brain and spine, rendering them incapable of communicating with each other. Nobody really knows what causes MS, and sometimes the disease progresses methodically, causing severe cognitive and mobility impairment, while sometimes it comes and goes with no apparent reason. More women than men have MS, and there is a strange correlation with geography: MS occurs with far greater frequency in latitudes where the weather is gray and sunshine is sparse; Vitamin D deficiency seems to be a contributing factor. There is no known cure.
You’d never believe Sandra has MS if you met her. She swam competitively at Penn State, she’s a total jock, and she’s a mom, a whiz in the financial industry, and an awesome tennis player. But when she was 26, she woke up with a horrible headache and within an hour had one eye dilated, couldn’t hear, taste or feel anything on the left side of her body, and couldn’t stand. After 10 days of testing ruling out everything else, the doctors decided she had MS. For the last 14 years, Sandra’s had a few relapsing remitting episodes and she still struggles with some movement issues, but she’s been very healthy. And she attributes a lot of that to tennis.
“Tennis is the one time I can completely clear my mind and just focus on the ball. It’s made a huge difference in my life, which is why I love this tournament.” And why I love this tournament is that it will help people like Sandra, John Austin, and Chris’s family – while being a heckuva good time!
“Serve It Up To End MS” is a day-long, super chill, rollicking good time where the Ams really hang out with the Pros, a few hot celebs show up, and some critically important money is raised to find a cure for people who struggle every day to live with the insurmountable physical, emotional and financial challenges of this insidious, debilitating disease.
I’m sending my $100 to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society today in honor of my friend Sandra and with high hopes that a cure will soon be found. We are closing in on so many diseases through the gene therapy and stem cell research – which is yet another reason to go to the polls on Tuesday and vote for the people who will allow it to continue (and who actually believe in science).