Benny posing with a pickleball on Sept. 14 at Bobby Riggs Racket and Paddle in Encinitas. Photo by Betsy Denhart

SNAP hosts a basketball tournament for pets in the San Diego area

The San Diego Advisory Committee’s Spay-Neuter Action Project (SNAP) faced a challenge: creating a unique fundraising event to help address the affordable, impartial sterilization crisis plaguing San Diego County.

The eight women on the committee knew that golf tournaments were popular but also plentiful. The ceremony seemed too formal for the grassroots community effort at SNAP. Bingo? Poker? Casino night? Nothing is quite right.

Pam Brand, a longtime volunteer, suggested something new.

“What about the Buckleball?” Brand asked.

There were a few seconds of silence, and then suddenly, everyone spoke. The energy in the room tripled. None of them knew anything about pickle, but they all heard something about it – something they remember now as the animation grows:

“My neighbors are playing pickle ball. One of them said.

I just read about it in the New York Times; Another note.

Some even had stories to tell.

“I met a guy at a party last summer. Our conversation was routine and polite but boring. He was waiting for his wife to finish talking to a friend and mentioned that he needed to get home in time for the pickle ball game.” “What pickle?” It was like hitting someone on The guy’s ‘play’ button, and he couldn’t stop talking. I don’t even remember half of what he said. I was so intrigued by the complete change in his behavior.”

Pickleball is sure to be a sensation.

Steve Dawson, Lee Posnock and a surprise appearance by “Crazy Ed” Yuskiewicz on Sept. 14 at Bobby Riggs Racket and Paddle in Encinitas. Photography by Betsy Dunhart

The sport was invented in 1965 by three parents whose children needed a new summer hobby, and the sport now has more than 4.8 million players in the United States. It has grown at an average annual rate of 11.5% over the past five years, according to 2022 Sports and Fitness Industry Association One sports report on pickle ball.

Matches are played with paddles and wiffle balls on courts a quarter the size of a tennis court. It’s popular with all ages, and newcomers can achieve enough mastery to enjoy the game within an hour or two.

Pickleball is exciting, accessible and very popular. So, can SNAP harness this energy and use it to improve the lives of the cats, dogs, rabbits, and San Diegan they love?

SNAP panelist Laurie Michaels offered to check out a pickle ball club near her house and file a report. Michaels’ poll proved to be the turning point.

Bobby Riggs racket and paddle Encinitas is a local baseball hotspot. Located off the highway with 22 dedicated playgrounds, lessons and events for all skill levels, and a celebrity staff, the club is open to the public. Although there is no membership, the cheerful atmosphere and harmony between the players and staff make it feel like a social club worth joining.

Much of that is due to Steve Dawson, the pickle ball coach, world tennis and pickleball champion, entrepreneur and philanthropist. Dawson owns and runs the club with his distinguished wife Jennifer and son Callan.

Tall and tan, with an athletic agility and a constantly amusing expression, Dawson holds meetings at a picnic table overlooking the stadiums, most of which are packed. Players, dressed in assorted sportswear of an unspecified type, stop to say hello on their way in or out. It’s so relaxing and lively to be here at the same time, and it’s easy to see why regulars visit three or four times a week.

At their first meeting, Michaels expressed interest in reserving six courts to collect donations from SNAP.

“Why not be great?” Dawson replied. Show the entire club and suggest possible dates. “You can put it together. I’ll send an email. It will fill our stadiums.”

The advisory panel picked October 8 for the event and got busy planning the pickleball’s pet series, an evening of food, music and sports. Guests can sign up for a class, compete, or just watch and experience the positive energy of the Pickle Ball. Raffles and the silent auction will add even more fun, and all proceeds will enable SNAP to help more animals.

SNAP volunteer Laurie Michaels, her dog Penny and Steve Dawson on September 14 at Bobby Riggs racket and racket in Encinitas.  Photography by Betsy Dunhart
SNAP volunteer Laurie Michaels, her dog Penny and Steve Dawson on September 14 at Bobby Riggs racket and racket in Encinitas. Photography by Betsy Dunhart

A subsequent meeting with Dawson and two SNAP volunteers demonstrated her infectious enthusiasm for sports.

Lee Bosnok, who prides himself on having a pickle ball habit five days a week and being forced to introduce new people to the sport, stopped by to say hello and share her pickle ball philosophy.

“I bought twenty rackets for others because if you are going to learn, you have to learn with a good racket,” Bosnock said.

Michaels handed her a Pickleball Pet Bulletin, explaining how fundraising is especially critical to SNAP now that availability of spays and low-cost neuters is down across the county and rescue groups are all working.

Bosnok regrets that she will be out of town on the day of the SNAP event.

“But did you know? I will buy a racket for your auction,” Bosnok said.

Dawson captured the spirit and offered to sell her one of the most prestigious ProKennex paddles he had designed at cost and its signature. When they came back from the pro shop and presented it to the jubilant SNAP volunteers, Bosnok smiled.

“I love helping out,” Bosnok said.

Dawson agreed.

Help is a gift, Dawson said.

For tickets or more information, visit snap-sandi eg.wego.com

call info:
When: October 8, 2022, 5-8 pm
where: Bobby Riggs Racket and Paddle, 875 Santa Fe Drive, Encinitas, CA 92024
what or what: Pickleball round robin tournament, lesson clinic, viewing party with raffle, auction, music, food and fun.
Why: To help the animals by supporting SNAP and have a lot of fun doing it.
How: Pickle ball for pet tickets

Editor’s note: Betsy Denhart is a volunteer on the SNAP Advisory Committee and an occasional contributor to The Coast News.

Pickle ball for pets


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