Sloane Stephens is on a mission to get fans to put their heart and sole into it.
For the second year, in association with Soles4Souls, the American fan favourite has teamed with the Connecticut Open to help fight world poverty, one shoe at a time.
Founded in 2006, the organization has distributed more than 26 million pairs of shoes in 127 countries including Kenya, Thailand, Nepal, Haiti and the United States.
Fans in New Haven this week can join the cause by donating a pair of their own gently worn shoes, which will be recycled and redistributed to people in need.
Last year, the tournament collected nearly 550 pounds of shoes for the cause.
“I started with Soles4Souls in [Washington] D.C. in 2015, that was the first tournament we did and we had an amazing turnout and we’ve slowly been bringing it to more and more tournaments, doing Charleston, we do it here, we did it in Miami last year and yeah it’s worked out well,” Stephens said.
“We’ve gotten tons of shoes and people have really taken to it so it’s been an amazing experience so far.
“I know that when I go to tournaments, a lot of players, we just leave our shoes at the end of the tournament and we just throw them away and I was like, ‘we should probably do something with them so we looked up some of the best charities for shoes, the right mission, something we all related to and this happened to be the best one.”
As a not-for-profit charitable organization, the Connecticut Open aims to leverage world-class women’s tennis to benefit the community, donating more than $50,000 annually to women’s, youth and military causes.
“We truly rely on the power of our generous fans, players and sponsors to help the Connecticut Open support our many worthwhile causes and non-profit organizations ,” tournament director Anne Worcester said.
“We’re unique in that the tournament can provide a platform for our sponsors to raise awareness and funds for their favorite causes on-site, while engaging with our fans in a fun atmosphere.”
This year, fans are also helping raise funds for local food banks, autism and other causes including:
* A partnership with Yale to organize and host its annual Salovey Swensen Extravaganza, which has raised more than $16 million since 1997 to support Yale’s community-based activities.
* A partnership with Yale New Haven Health to raise funds and awareness for the Closer to Free Ride and Lion Heart Fund at Smilow Breast Center to find a cure for breast cancer, which raised $32,000 in 2016.
* ShopRite Partners in Caring Food Drive, raising $8,175 last year to support the Connecticut Food Bank, enough to provide 16,350 meals to those in need statewide.