Pickleballers Serve for Ian’s Friends Foundation

Pickleballers Serve for Ian’s Friends Foundation

One hundred people gathered to raise funds for pediatric brain tumor research and have a competitive good time playing pickleball.

After 37 years with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and now with the AJT, , Jaffe’s focus is lifestyle, art, dining, fashion, and community events with emphasis on Jewish movers and shakers.

Phil and Cheryl Yagoda are the passionate base behind the good works of Ian’s Friends Foundation.
Phil and Cheryl Yagoda are the passionate base behind the good works of Ian’s Friends Foundation.

Atlanta-based pediatric brain tumor research organization, Ian’s Friends Foundation, held its second annual IFF Pickleball Open at the Atlanta Pickleball Center on April 16. IFF was founded in 2006 by Phil and Cheryl Yagoda after their son, Ian, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor at just two years old.

They started IFF to fill the void of the lack of pediatric research available for their son and the approximately 28,000 children living with brain tumors – the No. 1 cause of death by disease in children under 20, and which receives less than one percent of funding from the National Institute of Health.

Grandparents Rita and Arthur Bodner flank honoree Ian Yagoda.

The organization’s unwavering mission is to find a cure for pediatric brain tumors by funding groundbreaking therapies and research and supporting labs across the globe.

This research can raise survival rates, improve patient care, and hopefully lead to a cure.

On tournament day, honoree Ian Yagoda, now 18, had just won his first round of pickleball and revealed his optimism about soon entering the University of Michigan.

He stated, “I have been involved in IFF for my whole life. In terms of pickleball, I’m competitive because I like to get into opponents’ minds and rile them up, then they start thinking too much!”

Maternal grandfather, Dr. Arthur Bodner, said, “We are so proud of Ian, and how the kids have put together this whole foundation over the years.”

Dad, Phil Yagoda, added, “We love having this pickleball tournament — anytime we can bring together a great community of people with a passion for doing good while also raising awareness and fun competition, we know it’s a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.”

Lori Zwecker, Angela Simon, and Alan Sitcoff were motivated to go to the next round.

Ian’s Friends Foundation’s mission, in undertaking and supporting initiatives at research institutions around the world, focuses on developing new therapeutic methodologies for the treatment of pediatric brain tumors. With only four percent of federal funding allocated to pediatric cancer research and limited federal funding going to pediatric brain tumors, the Atlanta-based organization emphasizes bridging the gap by funding projects that would normally not receive attention.

To date, IFF has funded 37 projects at 27 world-renowned institutions including Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, New York University, Cornell, Johns Hopkins University, Emory University, Duke University, and the University of Pittsburgh.

Spectator supporters were Karyn Lipsky, Hollie Zuckerman, and Jennifer Bodner.

The 100 players had a convivial, upbeat attitude about coming out for tournament play on Sunday. Lori Zwecker stated that she has been playing for more than six years and enjoys the sport because “it’s social, fast and friendly.”

Julie Elster classified herself as a beginner and said, “I like pickleball because it spans generations, and we can find lots of courts around town, like Chastain Park.”

Wendi Aspes, IFF director of marketing and tournament director, ran a tight ship on Sunday. The pickleball tournament was actually her idea, on trend with the fastest growing sport in the U.S. She revealed, “My brother-in-law, Jason, and I are launching a pickleball apparel company soon, so I’ve been playing this fast-growing sport for a while. Jason actually runs ‘The Kitchen,’ the largest national online pickleball platform. I guess you can say ‘we have pickleball running through our veins.’”

Lee Edelman and Julie Elster enjoy the social aspects of pickleball.

Note also that the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta, in Dunwoody, just announced its $35 million expansion which includes a state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor pickleball facility.

Tournament star participants included actor Jacob Moran (Blumhouse blockbuster, “The Black Phone”); Will Buie, Jr. (Disney Channel’s, “Bunk’d,” Stephen King thriller, “In the Tall Grass”); Celina Smith (“Young Dylan,” “Annie Live!,” “Under His Influence”); Donald Elise Watkins (“Emergency,” “The Underground Railroad,” “Your Honor,” “Black Box”), and tennis players Ewa Radzikowska and Angela Simon.

Tournament winners were Jason Aspes and Angela Simon in the 4.0+ bracket, and Jonathan Elster and Jeff Edelman in the 3.0+ bracket.

Supporter Jennifer Babbitt Bodner best summed it up, “The tournament today was an innovative way to let the community know about this cause. Fun, plus fundraising, is the ideal combination!”

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