A Toast To Pam's Charity

Tennis icons rallied in Baltimore to help Pam Shriver celebrate 25 years of fundraising.

Published November 20, 2010 12:00

A Toast To Pam's Charity
Pam Shriver, Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert

BALTIMORE, MD, USA - Tennis royalty assembled in Baltimore this week to honor Pam Shriver and her charity event, the Tennis Challenge, which the all-time great has decided to retire after 25 years. Over the course of a quarter of a century, the event - the longest-standing exhibition in the world - raised more than $4 million for youth charities and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Those on hand to honor Shriver and help their friend with a final fundraising push at the Silver Tennis Ball included Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Elise Burgin and recent US Open standout Beatrice Capra, who hails from nearby Ellicott City.

Acknowledging Shriver's contribution to her own charity efforts, King recalled meeting the younger American in 1974. The occasion was an early WTT match in Baltimore, and King said she had marveled at the articulate, gangly 12-year-old player who already towered over her.

Baltimore native Burgin quipped that she had been drubbed by all the great players who had come to town at Pam's request, while Evert reminisced about spending time with Shriver visiting President and Mrs George H.W. Bush at their various residences. Navratilova - who, like Evert, took part in the first fundraiser in 1986 - paid tribute to her peerless doubles partnership with Shriver. On the spur of the moment Navratilova offered herself up for two private tennis lessons, which were auctioned for $10,000.

During the evening, esteemed Sports Illustrated writer Frank Deford presented Shriver with the Cystic Fibrosis Breath of Life Award, for her efforts in raising more than a million dollars for that charity. The November 17 event alone raised $300,000 to fight the congenital disease.

"It is one thing to be like me and have lost my daughter to the disease," Deford told the audience. "It's another to be like Pam and have no connection with it and do what she has done. I think it is much more generous, more gracious for someone without a connection to give of themselves the way Pam has."

One of the most popular emcees in tennis, it was then Shriver's turn to thank her family, friends, corporate sponsors and players who had taken part in the Tennis Challenge over the years.

Shriver plans to devote her extra time to her family, and other personal commitments. "She's naturally a great mom, like she's naturally a great sister, daughter and friend," said Evert. "We both agree the best thing that ever happened to either of us has been motherhood."

"I've stayed at her house in L.A., and seeing how she is with those three kids is just magic," Navratilova added.

Shriver burst onto the international scene when she reached the final of the 1978 US Open as a 16-year-old amateur. She went on to win 21 singles titles, rising as high as No.3 in the world, but her chip-and-charge style made a particular mark in doubles: Her 112 titles in the team discipline include 20 Grand Slam trophies with Navratilova (they completed the calendar year Grand Slam sweep twice) and the 1991 US Open with Natasha Zvereva. With Zina Garrison she won the doubles gold medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

Politically-minded Shriver has also played a significant role in building women's tennis, serving as president of the WTA Players' Association from 1991-94, in addition to three terms as vice-president.

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