The desire to honor a 10-year-old girl’s courageous battle against childhood cancer decades ago has become a local tradition that carries on her fight by raising funds for the kids of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
The young girl named Candy, who lost her battle with cancer, is the namesake of the Candy Classic Memorial Tennis Tournament in Corinth, Mississippi, which raised $14,000 for St. Jude in May at its 37th annual event. The tournament has raised $88,000 for the hospital since St. Jude became its benefiting charity 15 years ago.
Although Candy was not a St. Jude patient, the tournament raises funds and awareness for St. Jude while also honoring current St. Jude patients from the area. And members of Candy’s family, who no longer live in Corinth, still send a donation each year.
Bo Perry, the tournament’s director, said the Candy Classic continues each year because of the dedication of local organizers to the St. Jude mission.
“It’s because of the cause it represents more than anything else,” Perry said. “St. Jude is one of the best and most purely motivated entities that exist. That is the thing that keeps us going. We see so many kids who would not have survived if it hadn’t been for the groundbreaking efforts of St. Jude.”
Perry and his wife, Lou, have been involved with the tournament for so long that they cannot recall exactly when they started. Their three children — who are all older than 30 — played in the Candy Classic when they were in elementary school.
The tournament draws about 120 players from Mississippi and neighboring states and has youth and adult divisions.
“The comment we get from people coming from out of town is that it is a really fun tournament to enter because we are raising funds for St. Jude,” Lou Perry said. “We try to make it a fun tournament, and not something that is too competitive, and the people have really responded to that.”