When USTA Colorado honors its own, the event goes beyond an awards ceremony and live auction. It’s all about the tennis family sharing a great meal, along with stories of athleticism, integrity and generosity … and it concludes with a kick-up-your-heels party to cap off the evening. Anyone who still thinks tennis is an elitist sport should consider the guests at this year’s Colorado Tennis Hall of Fame Gala, who represented the continuing growth of the game’s participants, spanning age, gender, ethnicity and physical ability. Throughout the event, guests and speakers expressed that in participating in tennis, they learn more than sports skill sets, but also acquire positive life skills. Game. Set. Match.

Hall of Fame inductees, Class of 2016 (l to r): Don Willsie, Dennis Ralston and Dave Benson

On Friday, Jan. 20, more than 400 tennis aficionados gathered at the Marriott Denver Tech Center to celebrate the induction of four luminaries into its Hall of Fame: Dave Benson, Mary Jane Metcalf Donnalley (whose posthumous award was accepted by her granddaughter Eryn), Dennis Ralston and Don Willsie. Others were honored for their feats on the court, from winning a national title to exhibiting sportsmanship and grace during competition. Off-the-court good deeds were singled out as well, from coaching underserved youth to promoting the game. Vicky Matarazzo received special recognition for her work coaching Special Olympics athletes.

USTA Colorado board member Angela Finan, with Lew Sowell

Andy Zodin and Christine Chang served as co-emcees for the awards program, and auctioneer Shelly St. John revved up the crowd during a live auction that included an opening and a closing weekend at the 2017 U.S. Open. Two high bidders were able to jump on the special opportunity. The evening ended with a lively after-party to the sounds of Saddle Rock.

Dollars raised at the annual gala benefit the Colorado Youth Tennis Foundation (a fundraising arm of USTA Colorado), which promotes the physical, emotional and social development of all youth to aspire to become active, productive and responsible citizens. The organization strives to put a tennis racket into the hands of any child who wants to learn and participate in the game. USTA Intermountain Colorado has been promoting the growth and development of tennis since 1955, and support of the CYTF enables USTA Colorado help create the next generation of tennis players in the state. The Colorado Tennis Hall of Fame display is permanently housed on the first floor of Gates Tennis Center in Cherry Creek, in Denver, and is open to the public during normal hours of operation for the center. For more information, and to read bios of this year’s Hall of Fame inductees, please visit: http://www.colorado.usta.com.