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ACU Pickleball Club partners with nonprofits for tournament


Flyer for the Pickleball for Parkinson's Tournament.
Flyer for the Pickleball for Parkinson's Tournament.

April is Parkinson’s disease awareness month, and the Dr. John C. Stevens Pickleball for Parkinson’s Tournament and Resource Fair is set to take place April 29 in the Royce and Pam Money Student Recreation and Wellness Center at Abilene Christian University to raise money for the local chapter of the Davis Phinney Foundation.

The tournament is organized by Dr. Lorraine Wilson (‘76), professor emeritus in the Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition, and Deonna Shake (‘86), instructor in the Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition, in conjunction with the ACU Pickleball Club.

Half of the proceeds raised from the event will be used locally while the other half will go toward the Davis Phinney Foundation. The event is free and open to the public to attend. Participants may donate on the website, and a silent auction at the resource fair will help raise money to support the Big Country Parkinson’s disease support group.

“This tournament is a unique opportunity for both players and observers to celebrate the people they know with Parkinson’s and support them,” Wilson said. “This brings a lot of excitement to players who love the sport and for us to learn more about Parkinson’s in our own community.”

Dr. John C. Stevens (‘38) served as president of ACU from 1968-1981 before becoming chancellor in 1981 and chancellor emeritus in 1991. Stevens helped lead the transition from being Abilene Christian College to Abilene Christian University in his tenure as president. Over 9,000 students graduated from ACU while he was president and full-time faculty numbers increased to 184 from 169. Stevens passed away in 2007 from Parkinson’s disease and the tournament is named in his honor. His daughter, Joyce (Stevens ‘74) Cole, will be presenting the awards of the tournament.

“Dr. Stevens made you feel good about what you did,” Wilson said. “He sought to build on people’s strengths.”

Wilson taught at ACU from 1985-2018 in the Department of Kinesiology and since retirement has become a local ambassador for the Big Country Parkinson’s support group chapter for the Davis Phinney Foundation. As a part of her role, she strives to coordinate events to match the mission of the organization – to live well today. Last September, Wilson hosted a Walk a Mile in Parkinson’s Shoes event in the Teague Center to bring awareness, empathy and education to the Abilene community about Parkinson’s disease. Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition students joined in to support the event along with state officials such as Stan Lambert and others around the Abilene community. 

This time around, Wilson is coordinating a multi-generational pickleball tournament with two age divisions of players – 18 to 49 and 50 and older. Shake is taking advantage of the chance to play with a different generation and looking forward to the tournament.  

“It’s an opportunity to bring in our local community of pickleball players and to play in the same gym with our younger generation,” Shake said. “My partner is 83, and he’s one of my favorites to play with and asked if he could partner with me.”

Pickleball primarily became popular at ACU because of the work of Dr. Joyce Curtis (‘59), professor emeritus in the Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition, who brought pickleball to campus as a class for students in 1983. She wrote the first ever textbook for pickleball in 1998, Pickleball for Player and Teacher, which is still available for sale today. Now at ACU, a Pickleball Club meets every Saturday from 1-3 p.m. in Gym A and B at the Royce and Pam Money Student Recreation Center. Curtis will be hitting the first serve to kick off the tournament on April 29. 

“The three things we touch on all the time about Parkinson’s is awareness, empathy and education,” Wilson said. “By combining Deonna and my passion for pickleball and Parkinson’s, we can spread awareness, empathy and education.”

The resource fair will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with the tournament taking place from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Learn more about the Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition.

— Connor Mullins

April 3, 2023

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