Posted 01 Dec 2023

News and Stories by Nino Severino

December 2023 has been an outstanding month, celebrating and experiencing many achievements and events. It was amazing to have all our girls back from the US, Candy Wai, Bethan Fothergill, Tawana Senah and Macy Hendin-Walker. We arranged a wonderful dinner to catch up on all their experiences at their respective US Colleges, Justice Hall, our most decorated player, also attended the event.

The dinner was such a wonderful experience, the girls continually chatting, laughing, and recalling all the memories of Elena, and the wonderful stories that have led to them all experiencing an incredible tennis life path. Bethan, Tawana, Macy, and Justice were all part of Elena’s life, and we have treasured images and video footage of them all with Elena. Candy joined the foundation 3 years ago, after experiencing great difficulties with her tennis pathway, the foundation added invaluable support to the wider programme she was involved in and supported her and her family across many areas of life, outside of tennis.

The above image is wonderful, the girls all sitting together under images of Elena and I, on our most treasured day, our wedding. This represents everything the foundation stands for, relationships built on commitment, care, compassion, devotion, and a story that will last a lifetime.

The evening consisted of a lovely dinner, which gave us all the opportunity to talk about where the girls are currently in their lives. How the programmes are rolling out in the states, and what their life plans are for the next phase. One thing for sure, the relationship between our foundation and Candy, Bethan, Macy, Tawana and Justice, will only get stronger.

With Penny Moor, we were focusing on delivering an event that provided some of the current girls with a wonderful life experience. Penny was a member of Billie Jean-Kings incredible group of ladies who spearheaded women’s equality in the 1970’s. If it was not for the strength and bravery of Billie, Penny and the amazing group of players who represented the rights of females in tennis, our wonderful sport would not be what it is today, and we would not have the outstanding support of the WTA.

Penny was amazing, she gave hours of her time to the girls, ensuring that they enjoyed hours of tennis, and benefited from invaluable mentoring. There was a spectrum of players who attended, girls who were at club level, all the way through to those who had reached National level. The drills were dynamic, exciting and were broken up with opportunities for discussions and questions. Penny has now officially joined The Elena Baltacha Foundation as a trustee, since joining, she has been an incredible member of the board, giving us and the girls so much.

After the on-court activities, it was time for a Christmas get together and a dinner. Ipswich Sports Club kindly hosted this event, providing the food and venue free of charge. It was an opportunity for all the girls to spend time together, creating memories that they will recall in the future. Experiences that will add to their personal development, life experiences make us who we are, at the foundation, we aim to offer as many positive events and opportunities as possible.

Justice Hall accepted an invitation to attend this dinner, it’s extremely important to me, that the original girls, are very strongly connected with the girls experiencing their journey through the foundation now. I can not quantify the value of having our foundation girls, such as Justice at these events. She carries Elena’s torch of spirit, care and compassion, Justice represents all that Elena wanted to see develop in her girls. It was wonderful to see Justice mixing with the younger girls, providing them with kind words, encouragement and advise. This is a treasured image, Justice, Penny and I with a beautiful image, of our darling ‘Bally’.

The parents of all the children who experience support from the foundation are extremely important and have historically played such a major role in all we try to achieve. The foundation has invested heavily in developing relationships with the mothers, fathers and carers of the children. Without a close relationship with the wider family members, it’s very difficult to provide the total tennis support that is needed, this is a foundation, family relationship, it is this coming together that helps us achieve our goals.

The event finished with all the girls being involved in a big Christmas sing song, we have uploaded the video onto our social media. Tanisha, the mother of Alana, has a wonderful voice, she led all the girls through several jolly Christmas songs, including one of the world’s most famous, sung by Mariah Carey, ‘All I want for Christmas Is You’. Everyone left the Christmas dinner laughing, happy and with a bag full of wonderful memories.

by Wendy Henderson