The squeak of athletic shoes and pop of plastic pickleballs rang out across the courts at Lefferson Park this past weekend. The sounds carried on for 24 hours straight during the Middletown Pickleball Association’s first annual “Rally for Smiles” marathon.
From dawn to dusk and through the night, over 200 players took to the courts to volley and score. But this friendly competition wasn’t just for sport and recreation – it served a greater purpose. The marathon raised $1,683 for Smile (Something to Make It a Little Easier) Closets, a nonprofit providing school supplies and essentials to elementary students in need.
“We wanted to rally together as a community and use our shared love of pickleball to make a difference for local families,” said event director Gayle Lear.
The marathon was a smash hit, even for those not familiar with the popular paddle sport. Players and spectators alike enjoyed live music, dancing, cornhole, and a continuous feast of food. Some diehard competitors even camped onsite to maximize their court time.
“The atmosphere was electric,” Lear said. “Seeing everyone come together all hours of the day and night, united by this common goal, was really heartwarming.”
The funds raised will provide over 100 students with backpacks, shoes, coats, and other necessities many take for granted. For families struggling to make ends meet, these items can be difficult to afford.
Smile Closets board member Dee Sellers was pleasantly shocked by the donation. “We expected to maybe get $200,” she admitted. “This will help so many children.”
In true pickleball fashion, the marathon was a team effort. The city provided facilities, local businesses gave prizes, and the pickleball association organized the event.
“Middletown really showed what it means to serve your community,” Lear said. She hopes the marathon’s success becomes an annual tradition.
Of course, the real winners are the elementary students who will reap the benefits. Thanks to a little pickleball and a lot of big hearts, many will have a brighter year ahead.