Everyone–tennis fans, players, promoters and the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force– walked away from the Virginia Slims Legends Tour a winner.
“We were thrilled,” said PATF Director of Development Frank Leavens. “I, along with other people from the Task Force, was extremely pleased to see the event supported by our community to the extent it was.” The two-day event, held May 3 and May 4 at the Monroeville Racquet Club, attracted sold-out crowds and raised a total of $26,855 for the agency.
Now in its third season, the Virginia Slims Legends Tour plays in six US cities and brings together 10 of the greatest players in the history of women’s tennis, including Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Billie Jean King, Tracy Austin, Pam Shriver, Zina Garrison Jackson, Rosie Casals, Virginia Wade, Evonne Goolagong and Wendy Turnbull.
In partnership with the National AIDS Fund, the tour raises funds and increases awareness of HIV and AIDS in the six cities it visits. Since its inception in 1995, the tour has raised more than $250,000 and reached more than 500,000 people with AIDS prevention and education information.
The National AIDS Fund, founded in 1988 by the Ford Foundation, is the nation’s largest philanthropic and grant-making organization dedicated to eliminating HIV and AIDS. The fund has provided almost $50 million to local communities for AIDS programs and supported more than 2,400 AIDS programs in 31 states.
This year’s stop in Pittsburgh marked the tour’s first visit to the city, and by all accounts, its success here all but guaranteed that it won’t be the last. According to Leavens, International Management Group, the promoters of the event, was “pleased” with the response in Pittsburgh, “It’s likely the tour will come back here if they follow their pattern,” said Leavens.
The amount raised for the Task Force from the event included a $10,000 grant from the NAF that will be used specifically as seed money for development efforts, Leavens explained. The additional $16,855, which will go into the PATF’s general operating budget, came from the sale of tennis memorabilia donated by the players, as well as various items donated by local businesses and donors during live and silent auction bidding. Local donors included the Westin William Penn and Double Tree hotels, the University of Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Barnes & Noble bookstores and artist Shari D. Morris, among others.
Tennis legend Martina Navratilova’s autographed tennis racquet and warm-up jacket brought $1,700 and $1,325, respectively.
Leavens said he was grateful to the athletes for the role they played in making AIDS the focus of the Virginia Slims Legends Tour, since many of the people who attended came to watch tennis and were made aware of the Task Force for the first time.
This article originally appeared in Pittsburgh’s Out. This article is preserved as a part of the Q Archives project. Please consider donating to help preserve Pittsburgh’s Queer history.