24-hour pickleball marathon nets funds that provide items for local elementary students

Middletown Pickleball Association holds 6th annual event in Middletown.

The 18 Middletown Pickleball Association courts were alive with activity last weekend during a marathon that drew 220 participants who played for 24 consecutive hours, from noon Sunday until noon Monday, at Lefferson Park.

In addition to the play, there was music, line dancing, corn hole and food, and it was for a good cause.

The players paid a $20 entry fee that allowed them access to the courts for 24 hours. Gayle Lear, co-tournament director, said some of the players donated $50 or $100 to the charity.

After expenses, the MPA donated $1,683 to Smile (Something to Make It a Little Easier) Closets, a non-profit organization that purchases school clothing and essential items for students in Middletown’s seven elementary schools and John XXIII Elementary School.

Dee Sellers, from Smile Closets, was “shocked” when told the organization was receiving nearly $1,700. She was expecting no more than $200, she said.

Sellers said elementary teachers provide “wish lists” of items, such as socks, shoes, hats, mittens and underwear, and the items are purchased, then placed in the classrooms.

For some parents, due to their financial situation, they must choose between buying school items for their children or feeding their families, Sellers said.

Other proceeds from the marathon were used to purchase a $3,600 VAPTR water remover system that will dry the pickleball courts more effectively and improve play, Lear said.

Middletown is known as the Pickleball Capital of Ohio, and Lear said the continued success of the marathon is another example of how the community embraces the fastest-growing sport in the U.S.

She called Lefferson Park “a perfect place” for the marathon because of its location away from residences and the the number of nearby shade trees and grassy areas.

Some of the players spent the night in campers, while others stayed in local hotels, Lear said. The city of Middletown provided four porta-johns.

The marathon was started by Doug and Gayle Lear after a chance discussion with a local pastor. During an outdoor community event that featured fireworks at nearby Berachah Church on Johns Road, Pastor Lamar Ferrell suggested to the Lears they should host a Labor Day weekend pickleball event.

After the couple agreed, Gayle asked her husband: “What the heck just happened?”

Whatever it was, local students are thankful.


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