Mark Knowles Celebrity Invitational
by Matt Fitzgerald|
The Mark Knowles Celebrity Tennis Invitational (website) is an annual event held in the beautiful Bahamas in early December. Established in 2001, its mission is to raise funds supporting a range of local charities on the islands. Past beneficiaries have included The Sassoon Pediatric Heart Foundation, The Cancer Society, The Association of the Physically Disabled, The Children’s Emergency Hospital, The Boy Scouts of Bahamas, The Special Olympics and scholarships for promising junior tennis players.
Through the generous support of sponsors, fellow tennis players and of course, the fans, proceeds have saved lives and provided important opportunities for a number of individuals. 2010 marked the tenth anniversary of the event and pushed total contributions to over $650,000, with $130,000 being raised at last year’s invitational. Proceeds enabled Knowles to endow a local hospital its first children’s heart defibrillator – in the past, child cardiac arrest patients had to rely on the usage of an adult defibrillator. Previous projects have included emergency heart surgery for a baby girl, 12 days in age; the remodeling of cancer recovery rooms; and funding for a Special Olympics tennis player, who recently won a medal at the World Games.
Knowles hard-work, along with the star combination of mother Vicky and sister Samara, has been meaningful, both professionally and personally. “Knowlzee” as he’s nicknamed, has a huge heart for his people and is blessed to bring a spectacular tennis event home every year, allowing fellow Bahamians to see world class tennis professionals up close and personal. The relaxed, island environment is a perfect setting for players to unwind for a few days during the off-season and they are rewarded with a warm, friendly reception by the local community.
A testament of Knowles’ generosity and efforts is seen through the quality of player participants who’ve taken part throughout the past decade. Andy Murray overcame heavy snowstorms last year to attend, giving the banner-year event a current ATP star – and his efforts were very much appreciated by all-involved. Prior guests have included Andre Agassi, Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan, Jennifer Capriati, Jim Courier and Fred Stolle. Knowles’ dedication to philanthropy is also recognised by the appreciation of aid recipients – donations to The Bahamas Cancer Caring Centre have been so considerable that the facility honoured his work by creating, “The Mark Knowles Room” in 2006.
This event has had a great run in its first 10 years, and promises to be a fixture for many more during the player-charity-season of the tennis calendar. While his professional tennis career will eventually close, Knowles' unconditional support for children in need and passion to promote his sport in his native Bahamas will never cease.