Eighteen years ago, my dear friend Billie Jean King came to me with an idea for a wonderful event that would leverage our mutual love for the game of tennis to benefit my newly established Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF).
The idea evolved into the wildly successful annual series of Smash Hits all-star charity tennis matches, which have raised over $9.6 million since 1993 for EJAF’s grant-making initiatives supporting HIV/AIDS-related prevention, stigma and discrimination reduction, and direct care and service programs across the United States. The matches have also provided additional funding for local AIDS charities in the city hosting the event.
On Monday, Nov. 15, 2010, the Elton John AIDS Foundation and World Team Tennis (WTT) will bring WTT Smash Hits presented by Geico to Washington, D.C., for the first time in its 18-year history. This year, the featured local charity will be the Washington AIDS Partnership.
Billie Jean and I feel very strongly that it is particularly important for us to bring Smash Hits to the nation’s capital this year. The District of Columbia now suffers the highest rate of new AIDS cases in the United States and an HIV infection rate 12 times the national average. In addition, 81 percent of all AIDS cases in D.C. are among African Americans.
We will captain two teams of great tennis champions for a World Team Tennis match at American University’s Bender Arena and we will also lead a celebrity doubles match to open the event. Tennis greats Andre Agassi, James Blake, Stefanie Graf, Anna Kournikova, Martina Navratilova, Mark Knowles, Jan-Michael Gambill and Rennae Stubbs have generously donated their time and talent. Prior to the tennis match, all the players will join us for a VIP reception and auction.
Over the years, the money raised by Smash Hits has helped fund urgently needed programs in Washington and other cities across the nation. But our work is far from over. Both organizations remain committed to making a difference in the lives of others and increasing awareness of the ongoing battle against HIV/AIDS.
Please bring your entire family to American University on Nov. 15, and join Billie Jean and me for an exciting evening of tennis. Cheer for your favorite stars, and help support urgently needed HIV prevention and service programs in Washington, D.C.
Tickets, which include general admission ($40), reserved bleacher seats ($60), and reserved courtside seats ($100-$120), may be ordered through the American University online box office at www.aueagles.com/tickets or visit www.WTT.com/SmashHits for more information. For group sales of 10 or more tickets, please call (202) 552-5999. Special VIP ticket packages, including VIP courtside seating and admission to the Smash Hits VIP Reception and Auction, are available for $500. The auction will feature Billie Jean’s Wimbledon tickets and an Elton John autographed piano bench among other items. To purchase VIP ticket packages, please call Washington AIDS Partnership at (202) 939-3381.