To an outside observer, Glenn Wong and his First String Pro Shop off Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica might not look all that different from any other tennis shop and its owner. One might think he has no more impact on his customers than to mend their racquets, but the Westside Community has banded together when the man behind the racquets needs some mending of his own.
For the past 25 years, Wong has built a reputation in the Southern California tennis community as a premier racquet stringer. Wong’s customers described him as humble, quiet, and someone who wouldn’t draw attention to his diagnoses of stage-four lung cancer in June 2009.
So his friends and customers decided to do it for him. They strung together to serve up a tennis tournament or “fun-raiser” on February 27th at the Palisades Tennis Center aimed at helping Wong with some treatments and care expenses.
Steve Bellemy of the Palisades Tennis Center has also agreed to generously provide tennis courts, tennis balls, and overall support. Already, 120 players have been confirmed and the list is growing. In return for the $75 required donation fee, participants will receive gift bags full of surprises. The event will be followed by a silent auction.
“This stuff is just the tip of the iceberg. At the end of the day we really want to raise as much money possible for Glenn,” said Schwartz.
Jackie Ng, a casual tennis player and another one of his customers, explained that though Wong strings tennis racquets for pros like John McEnroe, Andy Roddick, and elite college players at UCLA, he treats them the same as the regular hobbyists he sees everyday – or more importantly, he treats regular hobbyists the same as the big names.
“He is a very low self-effacing person and extremely egalitarian,” Ng said. “He would treat Pete Sampras the same way he would treat me.”
Ng went on to say that she knows many of Wong’s customers travel long distances simply for his quality of stringing, but based on the community support for his illness, perhaps his allure goes beyond healing abilities with racquets.
Since his diagnosis, Wong has undergone brain radiation and chemotherapy, which have shown positive results. Though fewer than five percent of advanced-stage lung cancer patients live for five years after diagnosis, there are always exceptional cases.
Wong’s fiancée, Billie Parsons believes that Wong will succeed and be one of those exceptional cases. “If anyone can beat what’s supposed to be an incurable disease, it will be him,” she said.
Wong’s fiancée pointed out that when you run a small business for 15-years, one might only expect to receive some cards and well wishes.
“Bringing together so many people that care about Glenn,” Parsons said, “is the evidence that he has made an impact on a lot of people.”
WHEN: Saturday, February 27. 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Auction afterward, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Pacific Palisades Tennis Courts
WHAT: Doubles games players will be matched by skill level, with top teaching pros playing in to spice things up!
COST: A minimum donation of $50 per person. Food, music and surprises supplied with donation.
SIGN UP: Call Joyce Ng at 310.454.1905 or e-mail at [email protected]
DONATE ITEMS: Call Bill Schwartz at 310.451.1220 or e-mail at [email protected] (All gifts are tax deductible and receipts will be provided.)
Mirror Contributing Writer[email protected]