Photo courtesy of Ruby Berghoff.

ALTON - A few local pickleball players have decided to play for a cause.

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Over the past six weeks, players have participated in a ladder league where they play against each other every Wednesday night. On June 19, 2024, they wrapped up their league with donations to Christmas in July and TreeHouse Wildlife Center.

“We are all so very, very fortunate where we are in our life, our position in life that we have the luxury to be able to come out and play pickleball,” explained Ruby Berghoff, who organized the league. “Pickleball people are just nice people. That’s the bottom line. They’re just nice people overall and there is definitely that community spirit there, so everybody kind of comes together and has fun and does something good for the community.”

Berghoff explained that the ladder league invited 32 intermediate players to compete against each other for the best ranking on the court. As they played throughout the past six weeks, Berghoff kept track of who ranked where, which allowed players at the same skill level to play against each other.

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“The goal is really to try and find four players who have very similar skills and keep them on that court,” she added. “It’s just really a lot of friendly competition, finding people of like skill.”

This is the third year for the ladder league. In the past, the players have sponsored a 50/50 raffle every night. This year, they decided to wait until the final night to host a 50/50 with proceeds benefiting Christmas in July. The Christmas in July raffle fundraises for Community Christmas, which benefits area families during the holiday season.

Berghoff also asked each player to bring an item to donate to TreeHouse Wildlife Center, a local nonprofit animal rescue. They collected 37 rolls of paper towels, three coolers of meat, bags of fresh vegetables, several jugs of bleach and cleaning vinegar, laundry detergent and spray bottles for the center.

For Berghoff and the other players, pickleball is about community. They believe in the importance of helping others and giving back, and this is what the ladder league accomplished.

“There are so many organizations out there that could benefit from a little hand-up,” Berghoff said. “My attitude is, we are all so fortunate. You look at what’s going on in the news and how people are suffering across the country, and to not take all this for granted. Just keep it in front of everybody that we all need to help each other a little bit here.”

For more information about the local pickleball scene, or to take a pickleball class, contact the Keasler Center or the Wood River Recreation Center.

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