Billie Jean King (center) is flanked by Ilana Kloss (left) and Rosie Casals, co-founders of The Love & Love Tennis Foundation of the Coachella Valley.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MATT STOCKMAN, GETTY IMAGES
Billie Jean King, tennis icon who used her athletic achievements as a platform to champion social change and equality, recently was honored at the 11th Annual Annalee Thurston Award Reception.
Raising over $100,000 to benefit The Love & Love Tennis Foundation of the Coachella Valley, this special reception and dinner was emceed by tennis great, Pam Shriver, and held at the Indian Wells Tennis Gardens. A silent and live auction followed dinner, featuring a surprise doubles match with tennis greats Martina Navratilova and Gigi Fernandez, won by Gary and Barbara Tolman, who bid $20,000 for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
For more than 35 years, Annalee Thurston was part of the women’s tennis boom that began in the 1970s with the Virginia Slims Circuit. Thurston worked with Billy Jean and Larry King for over a decade, becoming a loyal friend to both, as well as an integral part of their various tennis ventures. In 1984, Thurston was recruited by Philip Morris as a senior consultant to the groundbreaking Virginia Slims Legends Tour.
“Our Foundation is proud to present this Award to longtime friend, partner, and mentor Billie Jean,” said Rosie Casals, tennis Hall of Famer and co-founder of The Love & Love Tennis Foundation. “Billie is a champion in all facets of her life, inspiring change for inclusion for all and finding ways to improve the human spirit. We are all inspired by what and who she is, and would like to thank her for her generosity, and for being here to accept this award in person."
Established in 2015, by Casals and Tory Fretz, the foundation’s mission is to promote, support, and offer financial grants to youth tennis organizations, academies, foundations, schools, or individuals who promote the growth of youth tennis. The foundation also assists in developing juniors who participate in tennis tournaments and aspire to become collegiate or professional tennis players.
Pam Shriver, a former professional tennis player and current ESPN tennis commentator, spoke about Billie Jean King's impact on the game.
Seen in the crowd were Charlie Pasarell, Pam Shriver, Gigi Fernandez, Martina Navratilova, Ilana Kloss, Melody Braden, Trish Bostrom, Raquel Giscafre, Sharon Walsh, Iris Williams, Roselyn Summers, Stacey Allaster, Ken Solomon, Larry King, and Micky Lawler.