“Play It Forward”

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Great Neck North students host a tennis tournament to fundraise for MS in support of their coach

Play It Forward tennis tournament participants.

On Saturday, Oct. 22, Great Neck North High School students hosted the second Play It Forward tennis tournament in support of their coach, Mindy Alpert.

Alpert is a graduate from Great Neck North and has been the assistant coach for the girl’s and boys’ varsity tennis teams since being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) 15 years ago. MS is a chronic disease that affects the central nervous system.

“The exact cause of MS is unknown but something triggers the immune system to attack the central nervous system,” explained Alpert. “The resulting damage to the nerves disrupts signals to and from the brain. This interruption of communication signals causes symptoms such as numbness, tingling, mood changes, memory problem, pain, fatigue, blindness, paralysis and more.”

To show support for their coach and bring awareness to MS, students Alana Shapiro and Sophie Frenkel organized the first Play It Forward fundraising tournament last year.

This year, the event grew. Drawing students from the tennis teams, student-athletes form other teams, students who wanted to support a good cause, younger and older siblings, and parents. The former girls varsity tennis coach, Mike Kazin, and the current coch, Eric Ragot came to the tournament as well.

 

From the left, Sophie Frenkel,
Mindy Alpert and Alana Shapiro.

“Compared to last year, I didn’t think we could do it any better,” said Alpert. “But this year far surpassed last year because of [the girls] hardwork and I’m so thankful and grateful.”

In addition to Shapiro and Frenkel as the event organizers and founders, student Eliza Schulman acted as the fundraising chair and student Katelyn Ho acted as the event coordinator.

While last year’s Play It Forward was held at the high school, due to increased participation, Shapiro and Frenkel reached out to the Great Neck Park District and got permission to host the event at Memorial Park. Memorial Park has 10 tennis courts that the tournament took place on.

The tournament was a lively and fun time for everyone involved. Music played, refreshments and treats were passed around all while tennis matches began across Memorial Park.

The Friday before the tournament the girls held a bake sale and promoted their fundraising at the school. This year’s Play It Forward raised a total of $6,222 for the National MS Society. Fundraising came from the tournament entrance fees, raffles sold, bake sale funds and donations.

The generous donations from students, family and staff goes to services and programs for people living with MS and their families. The money also gets invested in research to discover more treatments with the hope of helping those with MS and erradicating the disease in the future.

Shapiro and Frenkel opened this year’s tournament with a few words of appreciation for Alpert and everyone who came to the tournament and donated to the cause.
“We want to thank Mindy. You’ve given so much tour team as a coach and we’re so happy to be able to give back to you through our support and appreciation for the second year,” said Shapiro.

“We’re so grateful for you being there for us every day, the team wouldn’t be the same without you,” said Frenkel. “As seniors we are beyond grateful to have been able to work with you for the past couple of years and we hope that this is an event the younger players will continue after we leave.”

Alpert adressed the crowd at Play It Forward next, expressing her gratitude to everyone that showed up and shared a bit of her journey with MS.

Event organizers and founders Sophie Frenkel and Alana Shapiro.
(Photos provided by Play It Forward)

Alpert had played tennis since she was a young girl. In addition to playing on the varsity tennis team throughout high school, Alpert played a varsity sport every available season. After graduating from Great Neck North, she went to Cornell University where she majored in business and psychology.

“I had my first official MS symptom when I was 34, and I was losing the vision in my right eye, which thankfully is back,” said Alpert. “But now I look back in high school and college and I probably had MS that far back. My symptoms are memory loss, dizziness, problems multitasking, cognitive challenges, snd fatigue. MS affects me every single day.”

When diagnosed with MS, Alpert retired from her career in finance.

“Because of MS I had to stop working at the age of 38,” said Alpert. “I started volunteering for the National MS Society as soon as I was diagnosed, and I have been volunteering at the high school as a coach for the last 15 years.”

Alpert shared that sometimes when she coaches she gets tired and loses her train of thought and has trouble multitasking, but she wouldn’t give up coaching for the world.

“Although I wouldn’t have chosen to have MS, my time here at Great Neck North coaching has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done in my entire life,” said Alpert to the group at the tournament. “I’m truly grateful to have the opportunity to coach high school athletes. They have made such a positive difference in my life and I hope I’ve done the same for them.”

A chorus of responses came from the student-athletes present at the tournament, telling Alpert that she has made a positive difference in their life as well.

Visit the nationalmssociety.org to learn more about MS and how to get involved.

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