‘No Experience Necessary’: Are You Dense Sets Tennis Bash Event

Are You Dense President Donna Johnson (left) and board member Marion Bradley are looking forward to Tennis Bash, a fun, interactive evening for players of all levels and spectators alike, set for 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, September 21, at Middlebury Racquet Club. Proceeds of the event will help Are You Dense spread the word about the relationship between dense breast tissue and late state cancer diagnosis. Admission is $25 for players and $10 for spectators, with RSVPs requested to joe@areyoudense.org. (Dunn photo)

MIDDLEBURY — The U.S. Open has come and gone but area tennis fans can still get their fix at Tennis Bash, set for 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, September 21, at the Middlebury Racquet Club, 950 Southford Rd. The event is a benefit for Are You Dense, the Woodbury-based nonprofit founded by the late Nancy Cappello with a mission to prevent advanced stage breast cancer and reduce mortality by giving all women access to an early diagnosis.

Event Chair Marion Bradley became acquainted with Nancy Cappello through the Brave at Heart breast cancer support group at the Harold Leever Regional Cancer Center. She joined the Are You Dense board of directors earlier this year.

Marion came up with Tennis Bash as a way for tennis players of all levels, as well as those who have never picked up a racquet, to have fun together while supporting a good cause.

“This is an all-new thing for us,” she said. “We’re calling it Tennis Bash because it’s going to be a party — a big party where tennis is being played. No experience is required.”

The event will include doubles point play, with players assigned to courts according to their level of ability. Lively music will play as the club’s pros feed balls to doubles teams who will play out the point, no serves involved.

New players will be rotated in from the sidelines, allowing for a large number of people to participate.

On other courts, beginners who wish to improve their game — or start from scratch — can get tips from pros who will be demonstrating basic skills.

Winners of men’s and women’s fastest serve competitions and a target-hitting contest will each receive a $25 Amazon gift card.

The event is meant to be a fun evening for everyone from top tier tennis players to those who play strictly for fun — and those who don’t play at all.

“It’s a beautiful facility,” said Donna Johnson, president of the Are You Dense board. “There are huge glass windows overlooking the courts where people who don’t play can watch all the action. Light refreshments and raffle baskets will be up there as well.”

“We have a lot of great raffle prizes,” said Marion. “The owner of the racquet club is donating a year’s membership to the club. There are some tennis things, a lot of gift cards to various restaurants and other services.”

“We also have a door prize,” said Donna. “Drew Edwards Jewelers in Watertown donated a sterling silver tennis bracelet with Swarovski crystals. Everyone gets a chance at that.”

“Middlebury Racquet Club has been phenomenal,” said Marion. “The owner has offered us the whole place. We have all six courts at our disposal.”

“His pros are donating their time as well, which is very, very nice,” said Donna.

Nancy Cappello founded Are You Dense after being diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer within weeks of her 11th “normal” mammogram. The aggressive treatment she received likely caused the bone marrow cancer that took her life 14 years later on November 15, 2018.

Nancy’s husband, Joe Cappello, and other board members are continuing Nancy’s mission to ensure that no woman is faced with a late-stage cancer diagnosis because of dense breast tissue. 

As Breast Cancer Awareness Month approaches, Are You Dense is preparing to celebrate the 10th anniversary of notification legislation.

Thanks to Nancy’s vigilance, on October 1, 2009, Connecticut was the first state in the nation to require that women be notified of their breast density status on their mammography report. Thirty-six other states have since passed their own notification laws.

In another milestone, effective January 1, 2020, ultrasound screening for Connecticut women with dense breast tissue will be covered with no deductible, no co-insurance and no co-pay.

“That’s a big step,” said Donna. “It took 10 years but it’s a very big step.”

Nancy famously said that for women with dense breast tissue, trying to find a tumor with a mammogram is like looking for a snowball in a blizzard. For these women, ultrasound screening finds tumors that could otherwise go unnoticed for years.

“So many people who have high deductibles may forego ultrasound screening,” said Marion. “For them, the chance of early detection is at risk.

“Early detection matters,” she said. “It’s key.”

Tennis Bash is one of several fundraisers planned to help Are You Dense mount a nationwide campaign to educate women about dense breast tissue and its relation to late stage cancer diagnosis.

Survive to Thrive, a benefit for Seymour Pink and Are You Dense, is scheduled for 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, October 19, at Thrive Sports and Fitness, also at 950 Southford Rd.

The $20 admission will include workouts, yoga, raffles, food and a cornhole tourney. Tickets are available at www.thrivesportsandfitness.com or at the door.

The sixth annual “For the Girls,” AYD’s popular brunch and auction, is set for noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, October 27, at Grand Oak Villa in Oakville, featuring special guest auctioneers Dr. Beth Sieling and Earlene Babcock.

Tickets, $45, and sponsorships are available by calling Donna Johnson at 203-206-4350 or via email at djohnson@draxray.com.

A family event is planned for 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday, November 17, at Crystal Bees in Southington, where one hour of bowling and shoes, a $10 arcade card, pizza and soft drinks can be had for the price of admission: $25 for adults and $20 for children 12 and younger.

Those planning to attend may RSVP to Joe Cappello at joe@areyoudense.org.

The Harold Leever Regional Cancer Center is the Match Sponsor for Tennis Bash. Set Sponsor is the Lions Club of Beacon Falls.

Admission to Tennis Bash is $25 for players and $10 for spectators. Tennis equipment will be available for those who don’t have their own. Tennis attire is optional; non-marking shoes are required for players.

Walk-ins will be accommodated but to aid in planning, reservations are requested by emailing to joe@areyoudense.org

“It’s going to be a fun night,” said Marion. “People don’t have to know how to play tennis. It’s an opportunity to have a good time and mingle, to check out the club, and to raise money for a good cause.”

Those seeking additional information may email Marion at marion.bradley13@gmail.com.

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