Boca Firefighters Support Burn Victims With 1st Annual Pickleball Tournament


By: Diane Emeott Korzen Contributing Writer

Former Boca Raton Assistant Fire Chief and second-year Pickleball Player Raul Travieso was thinking about burn victims when he came up with the idea to host a “Charity Summer Pickleball Round Robin Tournament.”

“I wanted to do this for charity – for no other reason,” said Tournament Coordinator Travieso, who was busy keeping score at the first annual event.

One hundred percent of the about $3,000 in proceeds from the June 27 event will benefit the Children’s Burn Foundation of Florida, Inc.

Travieso said they hope to make this an annual event.

“Tournaments are very popular in this sport. They’re usually held outdoors in the 90- degree heat. This is such a great facility at Sugar Sand Park Field House, to be able to play indoors in the A/C.”

Travieso said he got the approval to host the tournament at Sugar Sand Park from new City of Boca Raton Recreation Director Michael Kalvort.

“The staff here has been very supportive. They are a real pleasure to work with,” he added.

Retired for 5 years, after a 39-year career as a firefighter-paramedic, Travieso is a member of Boca Raton Firefighter & Paramedic Benevolent Fund, Inc.

On-duty firefighters in the district also stopped by to show their support.

Travieso became a Pickleball Player two years ago on the advice of his orthopedic surgeon — to “take up another sport” following hip replacement. Before that, he was a racquetball player.

Pickleball is a combination of tennis, badminton and ping-pong. It started out as a senior’s sport, because the ball goes slower, and has become much more competitive with younger people getting involved – including students at A.D. Henderson (a K-8 school on the FAU campus) and at Boca Raton Middle School.

Travieso’s granddaughter Madison, 12, who was volunteering at the refreshment tables with her friend Jocelyn, also 12, said they play Pickleball in Middle School. They hosted two tables offering a variety of fruits, bagels, pastries and coffee for hungry players.

Some 48 players signed up to play in the charity tournament featuring nine rounds of play from approximately 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“It sold out in less than a week!” enthused Travieso.

Self-proclaimed Pickleball addict Peter Bassel was one of the players who participated in the tournament.

“This is for a great cause. And it’s just a lot of fun. There’s no such thing as a bad day of Pickleball, Bassel said.

He has been playing for four years and said the game appeals to everyone from ages 11 to 80.

The tournament helped support a cause that is near to the Boca Raton Firefighter & Paramedic Benevolent Fund.

Former Boca Raton Fire Department dispatcher Carrolina Annabell “Carrol Ann” Stankovitz said the Boca Raton Firefighter & Paramedic Benevolent Fund has sponsored “Camp Tequesta” for the Children’s Burn Foundation of Florida, Inc. for 26 years.

“We reach out to adults and children who have never been to camp. It changes them,” she said.

Stankovitz told the story of a 46-year-old woman who was a burn survivor. She asked Stankovitz, ‘Can I come and volunteer?’

“Absolutely,” Stankovitz told her.

When she came, she was wearing long pants to hide her burns. When she saw the kids playing in shorts, she went back to her cabin and put on shorts. This was the first time in 40 years she wore shorts in public.

“Many of them feel they have to wear long pants even when it’s 90 degrees outside. [The camp experience is liberating.] It’s like, ‘I can show my burns. No one will judge me here,’” Stankovitz said.

According to the Children’s Burn Foundation of Florida, there are 2 million burn injuries in the United States each year, with 1 million of those happening to children.

Over 100 children a day are treated in emergency rooms for kitchen and scald burns alone.

“We can’t lessen the pain and suffering of a burned child, but we can all join together to send a burned child to camp,” states the organization which offers the first statewide burn camp of its kind in Florida.

Each child is paired with his or her own Burn Buddy. Staff are: fire dept. and burn unit personnel, educators, burn survivors, corporate representatives and dedicated friends.

In addition to providing “good, old fashioned fun,” the camp offers lifelong memories, the opportunity to make choices and be independent, the chance to develop new skills, and a setting to make new friendships and renew old ones.

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