VITAS GERULAITIS SCHOLARSHIP WINNERS MOVE AHEAD IN LIFE
Chris Evert’s event has funded more than 40 Scholarships
While most of the $23.2 million raised over the past 28 years by the Chris Evert/Raymond James Pro-Celebrity Tennis Classic has been distributed to drug rehabilitation programs throughout the state, 41 Vitas Gerulaitis Scholarships have been awarded to at-risk women.
“It is another dimension to this charity event,” says Chris Evert, who has been giving out the scholarships since 1995. “It’s not only about helping people in recovery, but also giving at-risk women with children an opportunity to get their lives back on track.”
It was Gerulaitis’ generosity that moved Evert to name the scholarship after the Grand Slam champion and friend who died in 1994 at age 40. “Even in his playing days he never said no to a charity event,” says Evert. “He had a charitable nature. He was unselfish and giving.”
Two more scholarships will be announced at next weekend’s (Nov. 3-5) Pro-Celebrity event during Saturday’s (Nov. 4) tennis session. Scholarships pay for tuition, books and all necessary supplies.
Here are five of the past winners and their success stories:
Wanda Blevins Banfield (1998) – Banfield lost her children to the state as she struggled with drug addiction for many years. The scholarship enabled her to earn a bachelor’s degree in mental health counseling with a specialty in drug and alcohol counseling. Her children returned to her life, she owns a home in Port St. Lucie and she’s a published author.
Bettina Nelson Rogerson (2006) – Rogerson was able to earn her LPN license through Lively Vo-Tech in Tallahassee while raising two daughters and working part-time. She works for the Department of Corrections, and was a first-time home buyer in 2012. Her goal is to obtain her RN and become a traveling nurse.
Michelle DuPont (2010) – The 2006 Miramar High School graduate was pregnant with her second child at 22-years-old. The scholarship enabled her to attend Sheridan Vo-Tech and complete a nine-month culinary program. She has worked for Marriott International at the Courtyard-Fort Lauderdale for the past four years.
Asha Davis (2012) – Davis is a full-time student at UCF with a 3.6 GPA. She works part-time and has a two-year-old son. She will receive her bachelor’s degree in social work from UCF next May, and will be looking to work with juveniles and teen moms.
Rachelle Paxton (2013) – Paxton was once homeless, and the scholarship helped her to dream big. Despite being an epileptic and not able to drive, she is nearing completion of her AA degree in human services at Pasco Hernandez State College in New Port Richey. She is raising a young son, and intends to continue her education and secure her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees and open a counseling office.
“It has been inspiring to watch these young ladies, battered by life, yet determined to reach their goal of a brighter future for their children,” says Winifred Heggins, vice president of the Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida that disperses Pro-Celebrity fundraising dollars.
“Chris Evert’s scholarship affords them the flexibility to attend school full or part-time. They don’t have to choose between employment and motherhood over education. The Vitas Gerulaitis Memorial Scholarship has always been a hand-up, not a hand-out.”
“SCANDAL” STAR FOLEY RETURNS TO PRO-CELEBRITY EVENT
Former WNBA MVP Lisa Leslie Is Also Back
BOCA RATON, FL: Scott Foley, who just completed a six-year run as Captain Jake Ballard on ABC’s highly successful TV series “Scandal,” and former WNBA great and four-time Olympic gold medal winner Lisa Leslie will be participating in the 2017 Pro-Celebrity event.
Foley first gained notoriety on the WB Network’s “Felicity” (1998-2002) and then CBS’ “The Unit” (2006-2009). He appeared in the recent Netflix’ August release of “Naked.”
Leslie was elected to the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in 2015. The 6’5″ center led the Sparks to back-to-back WNBA titles in 2001 and 2002, and was an eight time All-Star selection and three-time league MVP.
Leslie was a part of last year’s celebrity group that raised more than $700,000.
McENROE, BELLIS, SANCHEZ VICARIO JOIN TENNIS PROS AT PRO-CELEB
WTA 2017 “Newcomer of the Year” Bellis Added
Former Davis Cup captain and ATP pro Patrick McEnroe, newly-named WTA Tour “Newcomer of the Year” CiCi Bellis and International Tennis Hall of Famer Arantxa Sanchez Vicario will be joining Chris Evert and her team of tennis pros at the Pro-Celebrity event.
McEnroe led the US Davis Cup team to the 2007 world title and currently is an analyst and play-by-play caller for ESPN tennis broadcasts. He has participated in Evert’s charity event multiple times.
Bellis, 18, is one of the young up-and-coming Americans in pro tennis. She has a pair of upset wins over Top 10 players this year and in August reached a career-best No. 35 in the world.
Sanchez Vicario won four Grand Slam singles titles, including her first at age 17 at the 1989 French Open. The former world No. 1 won two more French Open titles as well as the 1994 US Open. She led Spain to five Fed Cup titles and appeared in a record five Olympics, taking home two silver and two bronze medals.
CELEBRITIES ATTENDING THE 28TH ANNUAL EVENT – updated
TV Show Hosts: Dr. Phil McGraw (“Dr. Phil”), Steve Doocy (“Fox & Friends”)
Actors/Actresses: Tate Donovan (“Damages”), Scott Foley (“Scandal”),Timothy
Olyphant (“Justified”), Maeve Quinlan (“The Bold and The Beautiful”)
Musicians: David Cook (“American Idol”), Jordan McGraw (Hundred Handed)
Sports Professionals: Helio Castroneves (Indy Car), Lisa Leslie (WNBA)
Tennis Pros: Chris Evert, CiCi Bellis, Sebastien Grosjean, Luke Jensen, Patrick
McEnroe, Martina Navratilova, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Rennae Stubbs
Gala Featured Performers: The Pointer Sisters
Gala Emcee: Chris McKendry (ESPN)
Since 1989, Chris Evert Charities, Inc. has raised more than $23 million in an ongoing campaign to provide a bright future for Florida’s most at-risk children. With the help of loyal and generous sponsors, participating celebrities, legions of volunteers and a dedicated staff, Chris Evert continues to raise monies to fund programs through the Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida. With events at the celebrated Boca Raton Resort & Club and the Delray Beach Tennis Center, this multi-day event features a day of Tennis With Chrissie & Friends at the Pro-Am, back-to-back days of Pro-Celebrity Tennis and the annual Gala, an elegant evening of entertainment, dining and dancing. The event is one of South Florida’s longest-running charity events hosted by a former professional athlete.
For more information, visit www.chrisevert.org.