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image Two-time Olympic Tennis Gold Medalist Gigi Fernandez charmed the 380 guests at the Royal Sonesta Hotel Galleria Legends Ballroom February 11 with tales of her introduction to tennis in her hometown of San Juan, Puerto Rico, her climb to the rank of the No. 1 women’s doubles player in the world, induction in the International Hall of Fame and playing tennis with the Bush family at Camp David.

Bev Taylor, chair of the Houston Tennis Association’s National Junior Tennis & Learning program, and Gala Chair Lara Lehmann report that the event netted nearly $120,000 to continue providing the free tennis and educational classes and scholarship opportunities for mostly underserved children. More than 6,000 children benefit from the program each year at 60+ neighborhood parks and schools.

Taylor and Lehmann thanked their gala committee (Marilyn Bick, Brad Blume, Lois Canady, Marcia Carboni, Michelle DeFilippi, Marcelle Ho, Victoria Jaeger, Patsy Jorgensen, Shirley Mendoza, Karen Mokaddem, Becky O’Connor, Douglas Pritchett and Emily Schaefer) and the many members of the host committee for creating the successful event.

Avid tennis players and community leaders Becky and Ralph O’Connor served as honorary chairs.

Junior tennis players from local clubs and NJTL modeled cutting-edge tennis fashions for the guests, and video testimonials from local NJTL participants amplified the success of the organization—established in 1969 by Arthur Ashe, Charlie Pasarell and Sheridan Snyder—in the community. The HTA chapter was established in 1990.

Emmy Award winning Rachel McNeill, KPRC News, emceed the event, and veteran auctioneer Rusty Mertink raised $10,000 during the live auction. Guests also vied for an outstanding array of silent auction items.