Crofton Kelly, a 16-year-old St. Ignatius student from La Grange, has spent half his life making a constructive response out of a sad situation, raising money for children with cancer after losing a friend when they were young.
Earlier this month, Kelly held the 8th Annual Tennis Fun Fest, which raises money every year for The Treasure Chest, a toy program for area children diagnosed with cancer. The event raised $5,000, bringing the event's eight-year total to about $28,000.
As his aunt Julie Dunne put it in an email, "It's rare when you witness an '8th Annual' with a kid at the forefront."
Family friend Tyler Duelm was diagnosed with cancer when he was 3 years old, and he lated died. Kelly said he remembered the Duelm family always talking about The Treasure Chest, which buys toys for children going through cancer treatments.
"Whenever Tyler got a toy, they said, it really put a smile on his face, no matter how hard the treatments were for him," Kelly said.
So at just 8 years old, Kelly organized the Tennis Fun Fest, making his love of tennis a way to give back. When it started, it was a group of 25 kids working with a couple of area tennis pros. This year there were 75 kids and 12 tennis pros, including a "rally with a pro" contest to see who could hold up the longest.
"Although it can be a lot of work to run the event, it is so rewarding at the end of the day," Kelly said. "Also, the participation and generosity of everyone who comes out every year is pretty unbelievable. Some people just really want to give."