Providence club pair find strength in helping others

Ardent tennis players face own challenges

04/28/2010 12:00 AM

04/28/2010 3:19 PM

In a single week, Providence Country Club Women's Tennis will host two events to help others - but behind the scenes are two women who have faced their own obstacles.

Both are avid tennis players who want to help their community despite the challenges they face.

On May 18, Providence will be one of nine sites to host part of Bosom Buddies, a benefit for Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Site coordinator LuAnn Scruggs is responsible for making sure everything is in order when 112 women take to the courts for a series of clinics with local tennis professionals.

Scruggs suffers from polycystic kidney disease, a disorder in which clusters of cysts form on the kidneys. Sometimes the disease causes her fatigue and abdominal pain. She must manage her health carefully to avoid high blood pressure and deterioration of her kidneys that eventually could cause her to require dialysis or even a kidney transplant; she remains active, however, as an emergency-room nurse at Presbyterian Hospital Matthews.

On May 20, the focus will be on Levine Children's Hospital, as the annual member-guest event Glimmers of Hope gets under way with Karen Sowka at the helm.

Each year, club members invite friends for a day of tennis and a fundraiser for a local charity. The choice of Levine as beneficiary this year seemed obvious, because 5-year-old Rachel Page - daughter of tennis player Elaine Page - was treated there for leukemia. "We have to stick together as a community," Sowka said.

Community support is something with which Sowka is familiar. In July, lightning struck the Sowkas' house, burning it to the ground. She and her husband, Mark, smelled smoke in the middle of the night and dashed out the front door moments before the entry collapsed.

Sowka recalled: "After the fire there was just an overwhelming sense of community and an overwhelming outpouring of support and love."

The Sowkas still live in a temporary home and are negotiating with their insurance company. Taking on Glimmer of Hope is a way for Sowka to cope with the loss and upheaval.

"I do appreciate having something positive to focus my energy on," she said. "If it weren't this, I'd have to find something else."

In addition to coordinating the tennis aspect of the event, Sowka and her team are organizing a fashion show and rounding up items for a live and silent auction to be held during a luncheon for approximately 250 people.

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