Cape Girardeau, Missouri: Pickleball tournament raises awareness, funds for brain-cancer research

Dozens of athletes picked up their pickleball rackets in a show of support for Curtis Brown and to raise money for brain-cancer research at the SEMO Chemo Smash pickleball tournament Saturday. 

The Jackson resident was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer, in May, after experiencing memory loss and a seizure while playing pickleball April 16 at the Jackson Civic Center.

The tournament, scheduled for Saturday and Sunday at the Cape Girardeau SportsPlex, was a way to raise awareness of brain cancer and collect funds for research of the disease. 

Jim Berger, the tournament’s director, said about 225 athletes from 10 states competed in Saturday’s portion of the tournament from as far away as California. He said the tournament will be the largest in Missouri this year. 

Doug Brown, brother of Curtis, said he had the idea to have a pickleball tournament and originally thought it might be a way to raise money to send his brother on a vacation. 

But Curtis had other ideas. 

“He said, ‘Oh, no. If you want to raise money, that’s fine. … We need to put it toward the cancer that I’ve got because they don’t have a cure for it,'” Doug said, quoting his brother. 

Curtis Brown said he wanted the money to be used for research. He said he is fortunate to have the cost of his health care taken care of because he is a U.S. Army veteran. 

“They haven’t done much for glioblastoma for over 20 years. And there’s been no advancement,” he said. “Maybe five years from now they’ll come up with something and I’ll be OK.”

Pickleball, a kind of cross between ping pong and tennis, is a sport for both young and old. Berger said athletes as young as teenagers as well as those up into their 80s are competing in the tournament. 

Doug said more than $15,000 has been raised before expenses such as renting the event location. He said funds from the tournament, which he hopes will become an annual event, will go into the Curtis L. Brown Glioblastoma Research Fund.

“It’s amazing the support that we’ve had here today,” Curtis Brown said. 

Brown, who has been a pickleball athlete for about four years, played in this weekend’s tournament and said his goal at one time was to play the sport full time as a professional.

“Hopefully, maybe one day, I’ll be able to do that again,” he said.

The tournament is scheduled to continue from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at the Cape Girardeau SportsPlex.

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