MAC Gala: Raising a Racket

Article provided by The Meade County Messenger:

Brandenburg welcomed legendary tennis player and author, Monica Seles, to the 2013 Meade Activity Center Matters Gala held on April 13, at the FarmBureauBuilding.  The community was audience to an intimate question-and-answer session with the nine-time Grand Slam winner and MeadeCounty’s own Kari Wagner.

This year marks the fourth MAC Matters Gala, with hundreds of MeadeCounty citizens in attendance.  The gala is held as a fundraiser to benefit the MeadeActivityCenter project.

The gala was held at the FarmBureauCommunity   Center on the Meade County Fairgrounds.  It included a live and silent auction, dinner catered by Julep’s Catering, and a music performance by “Floor’d.”  Attendees were greeted in a small tent with wine and hors d’oeuvres, and music.  Later into the evening, dinner was served, and included salad, slow-roasted chicken breasts, potatoes, green beans, and a decadent cake.  The highlight of the evening, however, was the kind and infectiously sweet Seles.

She was born in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia – now Serbia – into an ethnic Hungarian family. Her parents’ names are Eszter and Károly and she has an older brother, Zoltán. She began playing tennis at age 5, coached by her father. Károly Szeles, a professional cartoonist, drew pictures for her, to make her tennis more fun. He is responsible for developing her two-handed style for both the forehand and backhand.

Seles is a former Yugoslav World No. 1 professional tennis player and a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. She became a naturalized United States citizen in 1994 and also received Hungarian citizenship in June 2007. She won nine Grand Slam singles titles – winning eight of them while a citizen of Yugoslavia and one while a citizen of the United States.

In 1990, at the age of 16, Seles became the youngest-ever French Open champion. She went on to win eight Grand Slam singles titles before her 20th birthday and was the year-end World No. 1 in 1991 and 1992. However, on April 30, 1993, she was the victim of an on-court attack, when a man stabbed her in the back with a 9-inch-long knife.  Seles did not return to tennis for over two years, but then picked the racket back up and continued to pursue her dream.  She played her last professional match at the 2003 French Open, but did not officially retire until February 2008.

In June 2011, she was named one of the “30 Legends of Women’s Tennis: Past, Present and Future” by Time.

Seles is the Goodwill Ambassador of IIMSAM, the Intergovernmental Institution for the use of Micro-algae Spirulina Against Malnutrition IIMSAM to make Spirulina, a key driver to eradicate malnutrition, achieve food security and bridge the health divide in order to secure the UN Millennium Development Goals with a special priority for the developing and the least developed countries.  She was appointed by Remigio Martin Maradona of IIMSAM.

On April 21, 2009, Seles released her memoir, “Getting A Grip: On My Body, My Mind, My Self,” which chronicles her bout with depression and food addiction after her stabbing, her father’s cancer diagnosis and eventual death, her journey back to the game and a life beyond tennis.

Seles’ story is one of inspiration and so is that of the MeadeActivityCenter.  In the last year, it has offered over 50 programs, including adult fitness, swim lessons, summer camps, and the “1st Tee” program.  Since last year’s gala, there have been 1,476 participants to take advantage of all that the MAC offers.  Their mission?  To promote active lifestyles and healthy community through education, wellness, and recreation opportunities for all.

Chairman of the Board and President John Beavin made two exciting announcements that will only ensure more opportunities for the citizens of MeadeCounty.

“For the longest time, a tennis program was not offered as safety was a primary concern.  The courts have remained in a state of disrepair, but I am happy to announce that this time, next year, we will replace and restore the tennis courts.”  Beavin continued, “I am happy to announce that the MAC Board of Directors have decided to hire Gary Bernstein as the Capital Campaign consultant.”

The Capital Campaign is described as a 12 to 18-month challenging endeavor in which the MAC will begin to raise required capital and begin the planning of construction of the MAC facility.  The board –  with 100 percent backing –  has pledged over $125,000 to the cause.

Putting aside the fancy attire and the beautiful celebration that is the MAC Gala, its participants are found as simply MeadeCounty natives who are striding towards one goal: a community center that will benefit not only our citizens, but surrounding communities.  Speaker, Monica Seles is a testament to such drive and passion, having faced diversity and overwhelming odds only to have overcome them both.

The next year may prove to be quite demanding for the MAC, but as Executive Director Aaron Greenwell stated, “The most powerful asset of this community is its people.”

It goes without saying that MeadeCounty citizens are always up for a challenge, having a proven track-record of overcoming even the toughest of trials.  This is just another race to be won by the MeadeActivityCenter and the community that supports it.

Katie Hager      

Messenger Staff


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