When I first met Elton John in 1973 we talked about finding a way to put music and sports together. So when he started the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992, World TeamTennis CEO Ilana Kloss told us, "Here's your chance to make this happen and we can raise money for the Foundation and let more people know about HIV and AIDS."
Now, 18 years later we will bring the product of that conversation, WTT Smash Hits, to the Bender Arena on the campus of American University in Washington, D.C. on November 15 for a night of World TeamTennis that I am honored to host with Elton.
Since the first Smash Hits event in Los Angeles in 1993 we have raised almost $10 million to support the programs and initiatives of the Elton John AIDS Foundation and several local-based HIV/AIDS organizations. Over the years the greatest players in tennis have joined us in our quest to raise money and increase awareness for the fight against HIV and AIDS in this country and beyond. From Evert and Navratilova to Agassi and Sampras, to McEnroe, Connors, Davenport, Kournikova and so many more, these players have stood with us at Smash Hits.
This year Andre Agassi is back and we are thrilled Stefanie Graf will make her Smash Hits debut in our nation's capital. They will be joined by Martina Navratilova, James Blake, Anna Kournikova, Mark Knowles, Rennae Stubbs and Jan-Michael Gambill for what promises to be an entertaining and important night.
All of us at WTT are excited about bringing Smash Hits to the Washington area for the first time. The Elton John AIDS Foundation tells me the D.C. area has the largest number of AIDS cases of any major metropolitan area in the nation. I'm confident that EJAF and our local partner, the Washington AIDS Partnership, can make inroads on that front through this event and the increased awareness we hope to generate.
Smash Hits really is a special night and this year's event will be even more so. The loyal support of these players who donate their time, and of VIP Reception Co-Chairs Diana Goldberg and Mark Ein, the 2009 WTT champion Washington Kastles and everyone - in and out of the greater Washington, D.C. area - who support this great event, is not lost on any of us.
Thirty-five percent of all new HIV infections in the United States are young people ages 13-29. It's a shocking number, but it is a reality we must face and a challenge we must attack.
Please join us November 15 at Bender Arena on the American University Campus in Washington D.C. for a great night of tennis and an important event to raise funds and awareness of HIV and AIDS. You can get ticket information at www.WTT.com or www.aueagles.com.