The Rogers Cup presented by National Bank women’s WTA tennis tournament (a US Open Series Event) is used by many top players as a lead-in to the US Open in early September. Women’s and Men’s draws alter between Montreal and Toronto with 2011 being the first year that both events were held simultaneously during the same week. This year, Toronto played host to the Women’s event and Autism Speaks Canada was selected as the profile charity – only the second, non-tennis related charity to have this opportunity in the history of the event.
The Aces for Autism competition ran all week with $50 being donated to Autism Speaks Canada every time one of the players hit an ace. Stats are still being tallied but we hope to hit our goal of $20,000! Luckily, Serena Williams was on her game and hitting her serves hard all the way through the final!
The fun started on qualifying weekend August 6/7 with the Free Family Weekend sponsored by Spin Master – one of Autism Speaks Canada’s incredible corporate partners. Spin Master provided tons of free samples and prize packs at various skills competitions. Fans had free entrance to the grounds and were treated to some impressive tennis and a plethora of on-site festivities. Activities on both days included a scavenger hunt, roving entertainment, including jugglers, face painters, unicyclists, air guitar contests – and tennis too – with target practice for all those wanting to pick up a racquet and win great prizes courtesy of Spin Master.
At the Autism Speaks Canada interactive display area on-site all week, BDO-Ad Council eye contact installation was activated, allowing visitors to see how difficult it is to communicate, and make eye contact, with children with autism. Additionally, Autism Speaks hosted a Spin Master Moon Dough play area, and ran a contest to win 1 of 20 autographed pictures of Maria Sharapova. Spin Master provided an incredible basket of toys valued at over $500 that was used to encourage fans to sign up for information on Autism Speaks and the early warning signs of autism.
The highlight of the week was Autism Speaks Canada Awareness Day on Tuesday August 9th. The monsoon-like rain that fell that morning did not dampen the spirits of the over 500 women in attendance at the Ladies Day breakfast where Suzanne Lanthier addressed the crowd about the growing national health crisis of autism.
Throughout the matinee and evening sessions, as visitors entered the grounds, they were greeted by Autism Speaks Super Heroes who handed out Autism Speaks backpacks. Video PSA’s and announcements were made throughout the day. Nina and Larry Andrade along with their 4 year old son, Luke and Grandpa Nino – one of our top walk teams from the Toronto Walk – participated in the official coin toss before the evening centre court match-up between Serena Williams and Alona Bondarenko match on Centre Court.
“The tennis community is really a fantastic one to spread the word about autism and the issues that families face,” Suzanne Lanthier said. “From grassroots clubs across Canada to the high performing athletes, like Maria Sharapova, who have lent their names to further awareness about autism – we know that step by step, ace by ace, game by game and set by set, we will find the missing pieces of the autism puzzle.”
Sincere gratitude to Tennis Canada and the volunteers at the Rogers Cup, Spin Master and Autism Speaks Canada Board member Anton Rabie, and Maria Sharapova for their support.
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