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KidWorks raises $10,000 in first pickleball tournament in Newport Beach

Organizers of the KidWorks' first annual Pickleball tournament.
Organizers of the KidWorks’ first Pickleball tournament, from left to right, are Corinne Morgenstern, Kathy Genevay, Betsy Flint, Lisa Gels, Yosely Ocampo, Heather Gaughan and Kyle Team.
(Courtesy of KidWorks)

More than $10,000 was raised at a recent pickleball tournament in Newport Beach for KidWorks, a nonprofit based in Santa Ana that provides preschool and after-school programs for students.

The sport, which is described as a combination of tennis, pingpong and badminton, surged in popularity in recent years, but has existed since 1965. Courts have been popping up across Orange County. Kyle Team, a board member for KidWorks and pickleball player, said the idea first came to organize the nonprofit’s first pickleball tournament last year during a women’s networking event.

Team said they realized there were a number of pickleball players among them and the rest, she said, was history.

Planning for the tournament began shortly thereafter and was scheduled for March this year. But then, as with most events this year, it had to be postponed because of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The total number of cases in Orange County are now at 61,421 as reported by the Orange County Health Care Agency.

About 1,276 of those cases were in Newport Beach.

“We scrambled and rescheduled because we didn’t want to cancel it,” said Team, who added that the spots to play filled up almost immediately after notice went out for the tournament.

There were 48 women playing in the KidWorks' first pickleball tournament.
There were 48 women playing in the KidWorks’ first pickleball tournament.
(Courtesy of KidWorks)

Fellow organizer and Corona del Mar resident Corrine Morgenstern said they tried to push it to sometime in the summer, but there were so many shutdowns and reopenings that they postponed it a second time until they finally got notice in September from the Newport Beach Country Club that they could have the event.

Kristen Ridge and Sue Murphy sell hats and visors for the sport of pickleball through their company, “PB&Jelly.”

Morgenstern said she was friends with Team and that the two played pickleball together. She said she wanted to help organize the tournament because she felt it was for a good cause and called Team instrumental in her involvement with the tournament.

Morgenstern also said proudly that she’d competed in the advanced category and won handily, tying for first place with another player but that she didn’t want to get the first-place prize — a pickleball paddle — since she helped organized the event.

About 48 women competed and most were local to Newport Beach or Orange County, Morgenstern said. Six games were played in each of the three categories — beginner, intermediate and advanced.

Attendees were required to wear masks into the country club and had their temperatures checked before entry. They were also asked to sign a COVID-19 waiver, Team said.

Lunches were provided by the Newport Beach Country Club and both Team and Yosely Ocampo, a Santa Ana student in KidWorks, spoke.

The Newport Beach Country Club provided lunches for the participants.
The Newport Beach Country Club provided lunches for the participants in the KidWorks’ first pickleball tournament.
(Courtesy of KidWorks)

The event was sponsored by the Newport Beach Country Club, Oltmans Construction, B Candy, Leslie Montgomery and an anonymous donor, organizers said.

Funds were raised through tournament entry fees and the sponsors.

Team said the tournament was focused on being a tournament, not necessarily as a fundraising event though all the $10,000 will be going to a program at KidWorks called “KidWorks Campus Crash,” which takes students to 10 different college campuses throughout the state of California. The priority, Team said, was outreach.

Corona del Mar resident Heather Gaughan, who participated and helped organize the tournament, said Team had asked her to participate with KidWorks about a year ago, but didn’t have time then. But, when Team asked her to jump on the planning committee for the pickleball tournament, she said her schedule opened up.

It helps that Gaughan’s been playing pickleball for two years and plays it with the other organizers on the team at the Big Canyon Country Club in Newport Beach.

“It was a lot of fun and I think there were a few things that we will work out for next time, but for the most part, it was just a really fun day,” Gaughan said. “I think what [KidWorks does] is really incredible for those families in need and I could see where I think I could get more involved.”

Jillian Gab and Leslie Casserly from Laguna Beach compete in the KidWorks' first pickleball tournament.
Jillian Gab and Leslie Casserly from Laguna Beach compete in the KidWorks’ first pickleball tournament.
(Courtesy of KidWorks)

Team said the organization serves close to 600 students and that most of them come from Santa Ana because that’s where the need is. She stressed that KidWorks is not just a preschool, tutoring and after-school program provider, adding it has a curriculum that is a combination of “education, faith and leadership.”

“At the core of our College Success Initiative is a commitment to education because we know it leads to higher income, improved health, and a better future,” KidWorks’ executive director David Benavides said in a statement. “We are developing life-ready learners who are leaders.”

Morgenstern said they’re already planning the tournament for next year, but she thinks the next one will be nine total games in each difficulty category instead of six.

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