Promise to Love All Contest: Featured Promises

Thursday, August 16, 2012 /by
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More Promises: August 2 | August 3 | August 4
 
 
Nancy McPherson may not own the most imposing forehand in tennis, but her heart-felt handshake is one of the most inspired gestures you may ever see on a tennis court. On the surface, pressing palms with your opponent — that traditional tennis acknowledgement that concludes every match — isn’t that unusual, but it isn’t the sort of human interaction McPherson ever takes for granted.
 
Several feet from the court where McPherson has just completed a doubles match her niece, Amanda, was seated in a chair, a cascade of light brown curls framing her face like a halo of hair, oblivious to the match just complete, while excitedly pointing out her primary interest: the smiling image of  Dora the Explorer leaping from the pages of the pop-up book planted in front of her. The child looked eager to turn the page, but her body could not cooperate.
 
Amanda’s hands were wrapped in gauze bandages protecting the raw fingertips beneath the bandages and red blotches of blisters burst from the skin beneath her nose and above her forehead.
 
Amanda suffers from a form of Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB) — the skin disease which affects approximately two out of every 100,000 people in the United States. EB is a rare genetic disease characterized by the presence of extremely fragile skin and recurrent blisters, resulting from minor mechanical friction or trauma. Many people get blisters on their hands and feet from time to time following friction, friction that comes from the continued rubbing of skin against a hard object or surface. People with EB, however, get blisters much more easily and in much greater numbers. Severe EB wounds resemble serious burns — but EB injuries keep recurring and there is no cure for skin so sensitive that makes the simple act of a handshake, a hug or lacing up a pair of sneakers painful in the more severe cases of EB.
Though the mere act of holding a tennis racquet can be problematic for Amanda, her aunt is using tennis to combat the disease. In an effort to help her niece and raise funds and awareness for EB, Nancy organizes charity tournament and pro-ams with all proceeds benefitting Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa Research Association of America, Inc., DebRA, a voluntary, non-profit organization dedicated to finding a cure for Epidermolysis Bullosa.
 
“It’s just  horrible, horrible disease,” McPherson says. “To see children so lively just starting out their lives suffering from it is so sad. It’s so rare many people aren’t aware of it. But the tennis community has really stepped up to help. Every time we organize one of these fund-raisers, you really do feel like you’re playing for something bigger and more important.”
 
In a sport where the net divides competitors, McPherson has seen the power in unity.
 
“On the surface, tennis is about hitting the ball over the night, but to see so many tennis players come together to raise money for EB research gives you an idea of the power we all have working together,” McPherson says. “You also appreciate every second you’re out on court healthy enough to play — and the handshake after the match.”
 
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