After her sister was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2000, Tricia Bothmer felt like she needed to do something. She wanted to raise awareness of this unpredictable disease affecting her sister, and to raise money for organizations that research MS and seek to find cures.
So, Bothmer turned to tennis.
A financial advisor in RBC Wealth Management’s La Jolla, Calif., office, Bothmer is an avid tennis player, and she decided to channel her passion to honor her sister. In 2012 she started a charity tennis tournament she called “Hit an Ace for MS” to benefit the National MS Society. In four years, the event has raised more than $51,000, funds that have gone toward research, support groups, care services and much more.
Now, as Bothmer looks ahead to the tournament’s fifth anniversary in November, she’s just getting warmed up.
“Hit an Ace for MS” participants at the inaugural tournament. Photo courtesy of Tricia Bothmer.
Heather Dean-Presnall, senior manager of leadership events with the National MS Society, says she sometimes gets calls from community members who are motivated about starting some sort of event to support the society’s mission, but then never follow through. That wasn’t the case with Bothmer.
“We get a lot of these inquiry calls from the community that are very ambitious, and half of them go nowhere,” Dean-Presnall says. “Tricia was not that person. She had ideas, and proposals, and goals.”
With a background in event planning, Bothmer took her idea for a tennis tournament and set off running. The first year, 24 women participated in the tournament, which is played in a round-robin format. Last year, that number increased to 40 women participants, along with 28 junior players. The event has grown so much in five years that Bothmer had to start a committee to help with the tournament’s organization, and it now takes nine months to plan.
Because of her dedication, Bothmer was invited to join the board of the National MS Society’s Pacific South Coast Chapter two years ago. In addition to her work with the tennis tournament, she also organizes a Walk for MS team, and participates in other charity events throughout the year as she furthers her efforts to raise awareness about MS.
“My life revolves around the MS Society,” Bothmer says with a laugh. “I’m fortunate to be surrounded by people that also want to make a difference. Everyone has different areas that impact them and their lives, and this is mine.”
Last fall, the Pacific South Coast Chapter presented Bothmer with the Community Champion Volunteer of the Year Award to recognize her for all she’s done to help the MS Society.
Bothmer accepts the 2016 Community Champion Volunteer of the Year Award. Photo courtesy of National MS Society.
“Tricia is the world’s ideal volunteer,” Dean-Presnall says. “She’s passionate about her own event, but she’s also become a huge ambassador for our mission.”
In tennis, when people talk about “love,” they’re referring to a scoring term, meaning zero points. But at “Hit an Ace for MS” each year, it might mean something else entirely, like Bothmer’s love for the sport that’s allowed her to make a difference for people with MS. Or, most important of all, they might be talking about her love for her sister.
“The fact that Tricia is honoring her sister is a testament to her character,” says Richard Israel, president of the MS Society’s Pacific South Coast Chapter. “I think it’s remarkable, and I think she deserves a lot of credit.”
This year, Bothmer is serving up the biggest tournament yet. For the first time, she’s added tournament play for men, and hopes to get 36 junior and 44 women players. She’s set a goal of raising $25,000, all in honor of her sister, who will hopefully be at the tournament once again to see Bothmer’s efforts take shape.
“She’s such a strong person in my eyes,” Bothmer says. “She never complains, she doesn’t want anyone to know what she’s going through.”
“I just love my sister, and I want for her and others affected by this disease to have the best quality of life possible,” she adds.
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