COUNTY NEWS: Andy Murray donates ‘priceless’ gift to raffle in aid of local hospice
British tennis star Andy Murray and his wife Kim have launched an online charity raffle to win a unique piece of tennis memorabilia in memory of a Sussex woman who died of ovarian cancer.
The raffle’s top prize is a tennis ball signed by Murray and late tennis legend, Fred Perry. The item is the only known piece of tennis memorabilia signed by the two British Wimbledon champions, and auctioneers have been unable to put a price on it.
The white tennis ball is one of a set of three that was gifted to Grand Slam Champion Andy Murray by tennis fan Gail Sargent. Gail was a lifelong tennis player and had met Perry on his visit to Maresfield Tennis Club in 1994.
Just over a decade later, by coincidence, she then watched a young Andy Murray practising at a different tennis club. Captivated by his potential, Gail decided to pass the signed balls on to Andy, allowing him to do with them as he saw fit.
Unbeknown to Andy, Gail was battling ovarian cancer, a battle she sadly lost in 2010 while being cared for at the St Peter and St James Hospice in Wivelsfield.
In 2013, after years of British tennis heartache had finally been brought to an end, the balls resurfaced in the Murray family home. Without hesitation, Andy signed the three balls, instantly creating three incredibly unique items of British tennis memorabilia.
In Gail’s memory, and after witnessing firsthand the battles with cancer suffered by his friends Elena Baltacha and Ross Hutchins, Andy has decided to auction a ball for charity.
Andy has chosen the St Peter and St James Hospice, where Gail received her specialist care in the last months of her life and which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
Alongside the raffle, Andy and Kim have donated a ball to the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum, to be showcased indefinitely so that the thousands of fans that walk through the gates of the All England Club every year have the opportunity to glimpse a small part of tennis history. Andy and Kim will keep the third ball.
Andy Murray said: “I am incredibly grateful to Gail for the gift she gave me all those years ago, it didn’t seem right to just keep them hidden away. So many people are touched by cancer, so I’m really hoping we can raise a lot of money with this raffle.”
The raffle, which is available to enter at www.raffleplayer.com/andymurray, went live online on June 10 and will run all the way through to the end of the grass court season. Tickets are just £1 each with the winning ticket being drawn on the day of the Wimbledon final, July 12.
The second prize in the draw is a signed Andy Murray t-shirt, a pair of tickets to the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum and Tour, and the third prize is a pair of tickets to Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum and Tour and a 2015 Wimbledon towel.
Colin Burgess, Chief Executive of St Peter & St James Hospice, said: “We are so grateful to Kim and Andy Murray for their generosity and support. This unique prize and raffle mean so much to us in this, our 40th anniversary year.
“Fundraising is vital to us as St Peter and St James Hospice, as we receive 14 per cent of our funding from the Government. Therefore, the majority of financial support comes from our community.
“There are fantastic prizes in the draw and I hope people feel encouraged to buy raffle tickets for this ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity.”
Anna Renton, Curator of Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum, said: “We are extremely honoured that Kim and Andy have asked us to exhibit such a unique item, and are proud to be supporting this very worthy cause.”
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