In a modern twist on the iconic 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match, Kevin Ricci, owner of Covelli Family LP, a Franchisee of Panera Bread, versed Julie Garfield, former Division 1 player and Tampa Yacht Club Champion, at the inaugural Tennis on the Green “For the Love of Children’s Cancer Center” event held May 14, 2021. The fundraiser proved to be a hit raising close to $150,000.00 which will directly benefit the Children’s Cancer Center through the Panera Bread Knead for Knowledge Scholarship Program
Leigh Spann, WFLA Storm Team 8 meteorologist, emceed the event which kicked off with a racquet spin by 3 children from the Children’s Cancer Center. The match proved to be entertaining as a sold-out crowd of 350 watched it live on a large outdoor screen on the 18th hole of Palma Ceia Golf & Country Club or courtside in a VIP viewing area.
While the match ended in a one point win by Garfield, Ricci was smiling from ear to ear. “The kids are the real winners today” said Ricci. “The money raised from this event will directly impact their futures by providing educational support and college scholarships. Words cannot express how much it means to my wife (Kerry) & I that we are able to pay it forward to these courageous children who have already gone through so much”.
After the match, a short program followed where 2019 Top Panera Bread Knead for Knowledge Scholarship Recipient, Cheyenne Heflin, shared how she triumphed over a cancer diagnosis, endured a leg amputation, and recently became a graduate of the University of Florida. Heflin spoke about the importance of the scholarship and how it has changed her life.
Following the presentation, guests enjoyed live entertainment, a silent auction, food stations and more amidst a backdrop of white hydrangeas, swaying palm trees and glimmering lights. “It was a spectacular evening embodying the spirit of the mission” said Patty O’Leary, executive director of the Children’s Cancer Center. “We have so much gratitude for Kevin and Kerry and their ongoing efforts to bring the Tampa Bay community together to make an immediate difference in the lives of local children battling cancer and life threatening blood disorders”.
Since its inception, the Panera Bread Knead for Knowledge Scholarship Program has awarded over $455,000.00 in college scholarships to local children who have battled childhood cancer or a chronic blood disorder. Additionally, a hands-on educational program called S.A.I.L. (Students Achieving through Interactive Learning) is offered bi-monthly to bridge any emotional or educational gaps caused by their treatment or illness. For more information visit www.childrenscancercenter.org. For future sponsorship and ticket opportunities, follow the event on Instagram (@tennisonthegreen}.