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Hitting the Pickleball Courts to Defeat Breast Cancer

On most Saturday evenings, science teacher Mary Holmead attends a Saturday Night Social organized by Lynne Coburn, a retired physical education (P.E.) teacher and pickleball instructor who teaches at the Coppermine Racquet and Fitness Club outside Baltimore, Md. One Saturday evening, while waiting to play, the idea of organizing a social pickleball event for a cause popped into Mary’s head. 

“A good friend of mine was going through breast cancer treatment at the time, and I remember looking at all of the people waiting for a court to open up,” Mary said. “I thought if we can get $40 a person, we could do some good things with that money.”

She approached Lynne with the idea, sharing her desire to raise money to end breast cancer in support of her friend. Additionally, Mary wanted to honor the memory of her wife, Cathy, who died in 2017 from metastatic breast cancer. “She was first diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer when she was 40,” Mary said. “We’d have two or three years with no evidence of disease, and then it would come back in a different location. It eventually metastasized (spread) to her lungs and brain stem.”

Lynne Coburn and Mary Holmead

Lynne jumped at the idea of hosting a fundraising event, and the duo decided to set up a Pickleball for the Cure fundraiser to benefit Susan G. Komen. “We were able to utilize Pickleball for the Cure’s online platform so people could register online and give directly to Komen,” Lynne said. “It made everything so easy.”

The pair got to work planning the event, securing donations from area businesses for a raffle and silent auction. Items included gift certificates to restaurants and businesses, as well as pickleball-themed items like dog collars, jewelry and wreaths. Coppermine Racquet and Fitness Club donated the court time, and club members donated items and services to help with the event.

Lynne reached out to Paddletek, a pickleball paddle manufacturer that she represents, and the company donated a basket full of items. “We had a really good response to the silent auction and raffle items,” Lynne said. “We were able to raise several thousand dollars just through those additional opportunities.”

Mary added, “The day of the event, we sold an arm’s length of raffle tickets for $20. People were just throwing $20 bills at me. It was amazing to see how the pickleball community here in Baltimore just rallied around us.”

In addition to the raffle and silent auction, Lynne sold varying levels of sponsorships, including court and T-shirt sponsorships. They secured 20 court sponsorships, which mainly came from club members or relatives of participants who wanted to contribute in some way but would not be able to play. T-shirt sponsors received logo recognition on the T-shirts that every participant received at registration.

On the day of the event, Lynne utilized her skills as a P.E. teacher to set up a fun, social pickleball experience that would allow players at all levels to play with each other. “I wanted this to be a feel-good event where everyone left feeling like a winner,” she said. “I had a pack of cards, and each player drew a card. If players were given a card with a 7 on it, the players would go to court 7 and meet the other players with the card 7. If they had a red heart or diamond, they would match up and play together, and the players with the black spade and club would partner up. It was a fun way to mix up players. And everyone had a great time.”

At the end of the day, the pair raised more than $15,000, six times more than their initial fundraising goal. “My heart is just bursting with pride for the people in our area and what they do to help others,” Lynne said. “I’m still on top of the world.”

“This was so much more than what I envisioned a year ago,” Mary said. “My heart was just so full that day seeing the number of people out there who have big hearts and are very caring. To be able to raise $15,000 to honor Kathy and all those we’ve lost to breast cancer was a wonderful feeling.”

Pickleball for the Cure is the nation’s first official fundraiser that offers players of all levels the opportunity to play the sport they love while raising funds to end breast cancer. To learn more, visit

Statements and opinions expressed are that of the individual and do not express the views or opinions of Susan G. Komen. This information is being provided for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice. Persons with breast cancer should consult their healthcare provider with specific questions or concerns about their treatment.