Honoree Star Jones with Health Science Academy Students

*Beloved tennis champion Arthur Ashe left behind a legacy steeped in tennis greatness.  Whether on or off the court the ace tennis player was ready and willing to give of his time and a helping hand to the underserved.

As a result, in addition to the game he so loved, Ashe will also be remembered for his humanitarian nature and the organization he founded aimed at bringing awareness to the lack of proper health, education, medical research, community service and philanthropy in urban communities.

In 1992, just two months before his death, Ashe founded and established the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health (AAIUH) to address the disproportionate amount of illness and death in urban communities from preventable diseases.  Ashe knew that many of these diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, are the result of inadequate health care delivery, late detection, and insufficient health education.

The signature event of AAIUH is its annual Sportsball which took place Thursday, April 14, 2011 at Pier Sixty in Chelsea Piers, New York City.  The seventeenth annual gala attracted luminaries from sports, music, entertainment, and medicine that enjoyed an evening filled with interactive games, dinner, dancing, dessert, entertainment, silent auction and an awards ceremony.  Funds raised at Sportsball 2011 support the Institute’s innovative community health education programs and research initiatives

Otis Livingston, Tavis Smiley, Dr. Edgar O. Mandeville, Dana Tyler

Dana Tyler, co-anchor, CBS 2 News, and Otis Livingston, sports anchor, CBS 2, served as guest hosts for this year’s “party for a purpose.”  Former professional tennis player Patrick McEnroe, general manager, USTA Player Development & ESPN commentator, hosted the black tie and sneakers event.

Each year the Institute honors individuals and organizations that are making significant contributions to urban communities in the areas of health, education, medical research, community service, and philanthropy.

This year, AAIUH honored Star Jones, attorney, author, television personality & philanthropist; William C. Rhoden, sports columnist, The New York Times; Dr. Moro O. Salifu, Chief, Division of Nephrology, SUNY Downstate Medical Center; and Tavis Smiley, broadcaster, author & advocate.

AAIUH’s chairman of the board Dr. Edgar O. Mandeville assisted Tyler and Livingston in presenting the awards.  Others participating in the program included Bonnie Gatling whose beautiful rendition of the National Anthem received loud applause; and Rev. Paul Smith whose powerful meditation garnered a loud Amen!

In her closing remarks AAIUH’s chief executive officer Ruth C. Browne, Sc.D thanked the 2011 honorees and guests for their continued patronage.  Browne also thanked the generosity of the event’s major corporate sponsors:

American Express, American Honda Motor Co., AstraZeneca, Bank of NY Mellon, Doral Arrowwood Conference Center & Resort, Empire BlueCross Blue Shield, Glaxo, SmithKline, Greater New York Hospital Association, HBO Sports, Macy’s, SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Swiss Re, Tennis Magazine, TOMS Shoes, USTA and Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard, P.C.

Browne wrapped up her remarks by thanking AAIUH’s “wonderful volunteers, staff and vendors.”  Lastly, she thanked executive producer Wanda Mann for helping to make Sportsball 2011 a Grand Slam.

Then with a click of their expensive heels, each guest lined up for a glam gift bag that contained a pair of TOMS Shoes.  Guests couldn’t wait to take off their dress footwear to luxuriate in TOMS and get their “party on.”  And an Ace of a time was had by all!  (Photos by Ronnie Wright)

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.