Mercer County Tennis Council

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Celebrating the Life of Dana Leigh Burrell

April 7, 2008 10:53 PM

Dealing with the death of a child is probably the most unthinkable tragedy in one’s life. When 18-year-old Dana Leigh Burrell died in May of 2006 due to a freak riding mower incident at home, her family experienced the unthinkable. Although doing something to perpetuate Dana’s memory was a sure thing from the outset, they needed time to deal with the loss. Now ready to get something in motion, a plan is under way.

A series of tennis round robins for juniors, women, and men will be held at Winning Touch Tennis, for whom Marlene Burrell has worked on a part-time basis for a number of years. The tennis club is located behind the Marriott Hotel (formerly the Doral) in Plainsboro. The final scheduled event will be a party for all to come, have fun, and celebrate Dana’s life. The proceeds will go towards a BFF (Best Friends Forever) Memorial Scholarship to be awarded annually to a graduating senior at Hopewell Valley Central High School, Dana’s alma mater.

"It was just very difficult for me to tackle anything until now," said Marlene. "We are at the stage that we want to celebrate Dana’s life. We wanted something good to happen from something bad. We wanted people to know who Dana was and not be forgotten. We believe this unique scholarship can focus attention on the values of friendship. Her star and her light came from her personality – that’s how I wanted to highlight who she was."

The planned round robins will cost $30 per person for juniors and $50 for adults. The final party will be free for round robin participants and $25 for all others. The schedule is:
May 3: morning – boys’ 10 and 12 and under singles; afternoon – boys’ 14 and 16 and under.
May 4: morning – girls’ 10 and 12 and under singles; afternoon – girls’ 14 and 16 and under.
May 18: afternoon – women’s A and B level doubles.
June 8: afternoon – men’s A and B level doubles.
June 22: 4:00 pm – Finale: junior exhibition, food and drinks; silent auction, and more.

As a tennis player, it was natural to use tennis as a way to continue to raise funds for the scholarship. And for Bill Kurtain, the owner of Winning Touch Tennis, it was a way for him to do something.

"It’s a huge thing that he’s doing," said Marlene. "For five days, he’s closing his club down to run these programs. It’s a huge gift."

Dana, who was in her first year at Philadelphia University studying fashion marketing, played lacrosse and field hockey in high school. She left a sister Ashley, now 23, and a brother Justin, 25, both of whom are actively involved in this project, as is Glenn, a sales director for an investment firm.

Marlene is impressed with the great support from so many people who want to participate and help, and she is hoping for a good turnout. As the family continues to cope with this life-altering tragedy, they have found a silver lining. "We’ve gotten closer," said Marlene. "What we once thought was important is no longer important. The friendships that we developed and the people that have come to be by our side is wonderful."

All round robin participants will receive a gift – a t-shirt for the guys and kids, and something different for the gals. To sign up to play or to contribute a silent auction item, please call Winning Touch Tennis at 720-0500.