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Lessons from the Pickleball Court: You Need to Serve to Win

Strategy & Technique Stacie Townsend 04-18-2022

Over the past few weeks, I have had the pleasure of attending two charitable fundraisers that had a common theme—they were run and attended by pickleball players and each raised over $10,000 for their respective causes.

The first pickleball charitable fundraiser was an event called “The Pickle Ball.” As the name indicates, it was indeed a ball that was organized to raise money for the City of Palm Beach Gardens to host youth pickleball activities during the summer (off-school) months (thank you to Martha and Bob Gilbert!). The fundraiser was held at the Palm Beach Gardens Tennis and Pickleball Center, and included a dinner, a live band (they were amazing!), plenty of dancing (not so much by me), and maybe a few drinks (more of this by me).

The Pickle Ball was filled with plenty of pickleball players who I had met on the courts. And, although no ball gowns or suits were required for this ball (as an aside, there was one attendee with a pretty “loud” suit in honor of the sport he loved, pictured below), I did not recognize most of them outside of their normal pickleball garb, hat, and/or glasses.

Lessons from the Pickleball Court: You Need to Serve to Win | Pickler Pickleball

By the end of the evening, which no one seemed to be ready to leave from, the fundraiser successfully raised over $10,000 (largely from ticket sales and raffle sales—including raffling off a private lesson with pickleball pro, Kyle Yates) for youth pickleball initiatives.

The second pickleball charitable fundraiser was a glow pickleball party to “Light the Courts,” which was an event to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (and was based on the “Light the Night” events that they have historically held). This event, which was held at Boca Bridges Racquet Club, was incredibly powerful.

Organizers, Ellen Korelitz and Daniella Niss, kicked off the opening ceremony with a few words of the idea behind this event and why its cause is so important. Then, Korelitz asked all survivors of leukemia or lymphoma to step forward (which two individuals did). Then, Korelitz asked all those that are present to honor the memory of someone that we have lost to leukemia or lymphoma to step forward. At which time, close to 20 people stepped forward in a crowd of 100 to 200 people. As each person named aloud who they were there to honor, which was incredibly moving, it was unbelievable to see how many people leukemia and lymphoma affect.

Lessons from the Pickleball Court: You Need to Serve to Win | Pickler Pickleball

After the moving opening ceremony, Korelitz asked the crowd to turn on the balloon lights in unison, which was quite a scene, as the sun had set and darkness had set in around us.

Then, as we walked to the pickleball court, the event really kicked into gear. The DJ grabbed the mic, welcomed everyone to the pickleball courts, asked everyone to turn out the lights one more time, and then cranked up the music. As the music started, the DJ led us in a countdown… 5… 4… 3… 2… 1…

Lessons from the Pickleball Court: You Need to Serve to Win | Pickler Pickleball

The pickleball courts were then lit up in neon colors under the blacklights that surrounded the area. From the wind screens, to the net, to the taped lines, to every player, everything and everyone lit up in neon.

After a few fun hours of pickleball play and mingling that took us into the wee hours of the night, the fundraiser successfully raised over $10,000 for the important cause—the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

The takeaway for me from these two pickleball charitable fundraisers is twofold:

  1. We have previously postured that the sport of pickleball is the perfect fundraising activity, as pickleball (i) is a sport on a “budget”, (ii) is fueled by people that are champions not only for pickleball, but other important causes and charities, (iii) could provide a unique experience for donors, (iv) offers multiple opportunities for fundraisers to engage with donors, and (v) offers an activity that lends to personal, one-on-one engagement with donors. These characteristics were on full display at these two pickleball charitable fundraising events. Non-profit organizations are starting to realize this, too—we even received a job posting from Susan G. Komem for a Manager of a Pickleball Fundraising Campaign position (if you’re interested, please email
  1. In order to win, you have to serve. This is true on the pickleball court—you cannot win (or even score points) if you do not serve. This is also true in life—you need to serve to win. You get more out of giving and helping others than anything else. So, serve on the pickleball court and in life.

Lastly, a special shout out to Bob and Martha Gilbert for an amazing Pickle Ball, and to Ellen Korelitz and Daniella Niss for a memorable glow pickleball party. I hope these both become annual events that are not just in my South Florida community, but emulated across the country.

If you would like to get involved or learn more, please reach out to


Read past blogs from the “Lessons from the Pickleball Court” series:

What lesson have you learned from the sport of pickleball? Share with us via email at


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