Tennis group helps make a boy's wish come true


Tennis group helps make a boy's wish come true


Date: November 24, 2009
by: Robin Hartill | Community Editor


In past years, the Monday-Friday Round-Robin group at the Longboat Key Public Tennis Center exchanged gifts at their holiday party. This year, the group considered exchanging tennis-themed gifts such as key chains or cocktail napkins.

“They were things you’d put in a drawer somewhere,” member Valerie Duval said.

This year, another member, Sandy Schonhoff, mentioned a different idea to Duval: Skip the gifts and use the money to help a local child in need. The fellow members of the group, approximately 40 women, liked the idea. So Schonhoff began to check with Sarasota churches to see if they knew of a child cancer patient who needed help.

The churches Schonhoff checked with didn’t have the names of any local children with cancer. But one day, as Schonhoff drove back to Longboat Key from one of the Sarasota churches she had contacted, she remembered the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The organization had flown her son, Alex, on a private plane to MD Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston, when his immune system was too compromised from leukemia to fly with an airline.

Schonhoff felt like Alex, who died five years ago at age 19, was whispering in her ear saying, “Make-A-Wish, Mom.” So, Schonhoff contacted Make-A-Wish. The representative told her about Jacob Brockhoff, a 12-year-old Palmetto boy born with tetralogy of Fallot, a defect that includes a hole in the heart. He loves skateboarding and designs skateboards, available on his Web site, He donates part of the proceeds to the American Heart Association and American Heart Heroes program.

Jacob’s wish: The avid skateboarder has never seen snow. He wants to try snowboarding. The Make-A-Wish Foundation told Schonhoff that the organization had arranged a trip for Jacob and his family to Salt Lake City, Utah, complete with a private plane and arrangements for snowboard lessons. The only thing Make-A-Wish didn’t have was a gift basket filled with treats to make Brockhoff’s wish come true.

So, on Saturday, Nov. 14, the ladies tennis group held its annual party, at the home of Karen Sawyer. They enjoyed the usual cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. But this year, there were no gifts. Instead, each woman chipped in $15 — they raised more than $500.

The women still have to go shopping for the items on his Jacob’s wish list. But in December, when Jacob takes off for Salt Lake City, he’ll have new video games, an iPod and other treats from a list he made — the final touches he needs to make his wish come true.

Contact Robin Hartill at

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