By: Sharon Aron Baron
On Friday, over 175 people attended the Make Schools Safe inaugural tennis event and dedication for the 17 families who lost children at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
Held at Quigley Park in Parkland, over 90 participants were mothers from the Coral Springs and Parkland area who came to play in the tournament. Others were supporters and friends who attended the luncheon, tennis pro exhibition, and plaque dedication.
Founded by Lori Aldaheff in honor of her daughter Alyssa, one of 17 people killed by a school shooter, the Make Our Schools Safe tennis fundraiser made $30,000 for the nonprofit.
“My family and I are in awe of this fundraiser,” said Aldaheff. “We are so grateful to all those people that helped make it possible, that worked here and came and showed their support.”
Aldaheff said it has been a very scary and emotional time because of the loss of Alyssa and the 16 other victims. “But all the prayers and support that are given to our family make this complete devastation somewhat more bearable,” she said.
Organizer Lara Kalidyn said they were thankful to the tennis community and sponsors. “We are excited to see how much next year will bring with months to plan.”
Kalidyn along with other volunteers are motivated to help Aldaheff “in part because our children came home to us, and [we] can not forget the extreme panic and horror we felt until our children were safe.”
As league teammates for three years, then becoming doubles tennis partners, Aldaheff turned to Kalidyn to make the tennis event happen. In turn, she recruited fellow tennis player and event planner Jodi Lippman to co-chair and guide her through the planning process.
Although there was laughter, there were moments of sorrow. During one, attendees formed a semi-circle, then locked arms and sang along to the song “Shine,” by MSD students Sawyer Garrity and Andrea Pena who gave Aldaheff a personal message via phone. Make Schools Safe also dedicated a plaque at Quigley Park to the victims attended by Jennifer Montalto, Andrew Pollack, and Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky.
“Knowing Alyssa will not come home is Lori’s reality, so taking some time to support my friend with her mission of trying to make schools safe is the least I can do,” said Kalidyn.
Although Aldaheff is leaving her as a tennis partner to pursue bigger endeavors, Kalidyn said she will miss her terribly. “Duty calls. Lori is bound for greatness. I can just feel it.”
Find out more or donate to Make Our Schools Safe here. www.MakeOurSchoolsSafe.org.