SquashBusters Derby rallies squash and business community to raise record-breaking $1.3M

By John Nimick

 

The two-year-old all-women’s team Unbridled came within a whisker of victory, but perennial champions Wallbanger took home the trophy for the ninth consecutive year at the 2017 MFS SquashBusters Derby in Boston over the May 4-7 weekend. Wallbanger defeated Unbridled 6-5 in the final, bolstered along the way by points accrued from an outstanding team fundraising total of $362,446.

After two months of fundraising, more than 80 amateur squash players, a dozen team captains, and a gaggle of elite pros took to the doubles courts at the University Club and the singles courts at SquashBusters in an 8-team race full of fun, festivities and incredible generosity. With MFS Investments and their dynamic duo of President Rob Manning and CFO Amrit Kanwal leading the way as Title Sponsor, Will Muggia’s Westfield Capital Management in strong support as a Diamond Presenting Sponsor, and Peter Palandjian’s Intercontinental Real Estate bolstering a cadre of more than 21 corporate sponsors, the collective enterprise raised a record $1.3m for the sports-based youth development program.

Event Committee Co-Chair David Drubner, of the Baupost Group, took home the coveted Secretariat Award with a momentous $77,000 fundraising mark, while super-supporters Sandy Tierney, Will Muggia, John Blasberg and George Bell were in close pursuit the entire way.

On the squash front, the 11th edition of the Derby featured the spirit and talent of some of the sport’s best-loved and most successful professionals. Returning for the 9th time were World Champion Peter Nicol and Boston’s local hero/coach Dan Sharplin. Adding excitement to the pro competition and team leadership were 2-time World Champion David Palmer, Team USA #2 Olivia Blatchford, subbing for the recovering Amanda Sobhy, who was also thoroughly on hand, as well as Suzie Pierrepont, Ramit Tandon, Clinton Leeuw, Alister Walker and Wael El Hindi. Notables in the mix included former hardball champion Mark Talbott, Canadian great Clive Caldwell, John Nimick, celebrity chef and former Yale star Ming Tsai, former Intercollegiate Champion Amr Khalifa and the multi-talented Chris Walker, whose second successful hip replacement relegated him off-court to lead the Junior Stakes portion of the competition.

The second year of the Derby’s Junior Stakes, molded into another great success by Co-Chair Jeannie Blasberg and Stakes founding spirit Simone Winston, saw 16 juniors from the local community and 16 SquashBusters teammates form into 8 teams for spirited rounds of Offense/Defense and match play, before Lucky Strike took home the honors as the winning team.

The true highlight of the 2017 Derby was the speech given during the evening reception by graduating senior George Montero of Dorchester. Montero gave credit to SquashBusters, its staff and particularly Program Director Myra Sack for giving him confidence and hope, as well as a brighter future. Montero, who gave a shout out to every one of his fellow graduates and “second family,” is graduating from Another Course to College in Hyde Park and will enroll at Drexel University in September 2017. At Drexel, George will study secondary education and play on the squash team.

In his closing remarks, urban squash visionary and SquashBusters founder Greg Zaff credited everyone in the room and all the Derby supporters over the previous eleven years with the success of the urban squash wave that started in Boston and is still rippling out across the country and the world.

The first urban squash program of its kind, SquashBusters is a sports-based after school youth development program that uses a combination of squash and fitness, academic enrichment, and character development to open doors and prepare students for college. SquashBusters has served more than 700 young people from Boston and Lawrence since its inception in 1996, and 99% of its program graduates have enrolled in college.

SquashBusters has served as the model for what has now become an international movement impacting the health, character and educational success of thousands of urban youth. The Boston program paved the way for more than 22 urban squash and education programs all over the world. Together, these programs serve more than 2,000 students worldwide. To learn more about SquashBusters, visitwww.squashbusters.org.

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