Making Life Better for Children

Posted by: Jean Lloyd - October 5, 2018

Clint Sumrow (University of Texas – Austin, 2005) was just five years old when he received life-saving treatment for cancer. Today he and his sisters share a commitment to philanthropy modeled by their parents in support of helping children. Each September the Sumrow family, in partnership with Children’s Health, puts on the Red Balloon Children Helping Children Tennis Tournament to raise money for the Pauline Allen Gill Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s Health in Texas.

Sumrow serves as volunteer co-chair of the North Texas tournament his parents started in his honor in 1991. His sisters Christy and Lauren volunteer with him for this family-run event which is sanctioned by the United States Tennis Association. In 2017 more than 400 tennis players under age 18 participated in the tournament. The Sumrow family had no idea how the tournament would grow or how their commitment would teach generations of children to give back to the community. In the first year, they hoped to raise $10,000 but reached $25,000.

“My parents started the event 28 years ago as a way to give back to Children’s where I was treated for cancer. They stepped down a couple of years ago, so my sisters and I are running it as volunteer co-chairs,” said Sumrow. “The event has grown and become more of a community event. We have a lot of activities at the tennis center the weekend of the event.”

The original grassroots effort has turned into a significant community event raising $3.2 million for pediatric cancer research and programs. Funds raised support the facility where one in five Texas children with cancer seek treatment, a center with 24 pediatric hematologists and oncologists.

As a young child, Sumrow landed at Children’s after a physician diagnosed bone lesions as the source of reoccurring pain in his right arm. A biopsy revealed the cancer had spread to his lungs. He began chemotherapy and radiation treatments which continued throughout the next year and he faced side effects and frequent hospitalizations. Though he was cancer-free following treatment, the effects of treatment lingered. Like many cancer patients, Sumrow suffered from fevers and neutropenia – or low white blood cell counts — during treatment.

Just as he was becoming a high school tennis player, Sumrow suffered a fractured right arm while making an overhead smash. “It just snapped,” he said. Cancer therapy had weakened his humerus bone, and doctors had to insert a titanium road and bone from his left leg to mend the break. After a year of physical therapy, Sumrow returned to the court to play varsity tennis for three more years.

“I didn’t really think I would be able to play again,” he said. “But just through physical therapy I slowly gained it back.”

Growing up in a tennis family made his work for a tennis manufacturer as sales representative for HEAD Penn Racquet Sports a natural fit. “Today I feel great, I’m playing tennis and I’m teaching tennis,” said Sumrow. “I’m thankful for family especially my parents, sisters, grandparents and oncologist and the community support.”

The Red Balloon Children Helping Children Tennis Tournament is September 22-23, 2018 in Plano, Texas.