Matching the popularity of America’s fastest growing sport with the power of healing, the local chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation is conducting an inaugural pickleball tournament. The goal for the event is to raise money to provide wishes for families struggling with medical issues, not unlike the one granted to the Richardson family of Lebanon.

“They were moments of pure amazement that remind you why you have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep pushing with your child’s treatment,” said Jamie Richardson, whose daughter Maya was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis, a rare genetic disorder, and a brain tumor at the age of 20 months. “But Make-A-Wish couldn’t do anything, couldn’t grant a child’s wish if it wasn’t for generous donors. Every dollar adds up and Make-A-Wish has a way of stretching every dollar. Here’s an organization that does everything out of selflessness and also identifies the healing that can happen through kindness. It couldn’t be done without awesome people.”

One-time beneficiaries of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, mother Jaime Richardson (left) and daughter Maya Richardson are now focusing their energy on aiding the organization’s cause. (Jeff Falk)

The Pickleball for Wishes tournament will be contested on Saturday, July 20, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., at Smash Point Premium Indoor Pickleball, 97 Gateway Drive, Mechanicsburg. The competition will be broken down into different categories: mixed doubles; novice men; novice women; intermediate men; intermediate women; advanced men; and advanced women.

Entry fees are $50 for singles and $100 for doubles and players can register by going to before June 30. There will also be a special celebrity game at 11 a.m. featuring 16 local media personalities.

“Fulfilling the wishes makes such an impact for the child and the family,” said Lebanon native Sherrie Davis, Pickleball for Wishes’ organizer. “They’re going through so much. When they get their wish, it’s an opportunity to forget about everything – the needles, the doctors, the hospitals. The experience is so profound. It’s amazing.”

The logistical goals for Pickleball for Wishes include 160 players and $30,000 in raised funds, which would finance wishes for three critically ill – not necessarily terminally ill – children and their families. The typical wish costs around $10,000 to grant.

A national organization, the local chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation includes Philadelphia, Delaware and the Susquehanna Valley, which is composed of Lebanon, Lancaster, Dauphin, Cumberland and Perry counties. Since being founded in 1986, the local chapter has fulfilled more than 7,500 life-altering wishes.

“They’re just everyday kids,” said Davis. “It’s just somebody who has a critical illness. It could be any child. We’re here to help them forget about things for a while and make their child as happy as we can.”

The granted wish is not a cure, but it does possess healing powers and the ability to provide a respite from the mental stress that can come from medical challenges.

“When there’s a serious illness in a family, especially when it involves a child, it’s hard to plan the next thing, the doctor visits, the treatments,” said Jamie Richardson. “It’s really hard for parents to plan things. In the back of your mind, it’s like ‘What if?’ That’s why Make-A-Wish is such a key component, just with the support they give to families. There’s such an oppression with the expenses that come with medical illnesses.”

Maya Richardson began chemotherapy treatments to manage her neurofibromatosis and inoperable brain tumor before she was 2 years old. In 2016, 6-year-old Maya and the Richardsons were referred to the Make-A-Wish program by a social worker at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

The Richardsons, mother Jamie and daughter Maya, continue to present a united front in Maya’s lifelong struggles with neurofibromatosis and an inoperable brain tumor. (Jeff Falk)

Maya wanted to go to Disney World in Florida. Maya wanted to be a princess.

“Everything was free, including things at Disney World,” said Maya, now 14. “The medication was trying to help my brain tumor not to grow. A lot of the times it was very tiring. I wasn’t as strong as I am today. It was something to make me happy and a little stress-free.”

“Make-A-Wish is an organization that helps kids who aren’t like other kids,” she continued. “If they have a disability or a disease they give them a wish. They can go on trips, and it helps them realize they’re not the only person going through it.”

Up until six months ago, Maya had received regular chemotherapy treatments, and she still has check-ups every three months. In the fall, she will begin her freshman year of high school at Cedar Crest.

The week-long trip to Disney World is a memory that Maya will always carry with her.

“There’s always a chance she could go back on chemo,” said Jamie Richardson. “Every time she stops chemotherapy the tumor seems to grow.

“From our family’s perspective, the trip to Disney is something we won’t be able to replicate in the same fashion,” Jamie added. “Just being together and having a great time. It constantly reminds us how important it is to give back to organizations. We’ve tried to fundraise with Make-A-Wish when we can.”

“There are restrictions, but we do whatever we can. We can’t promise a wish will happen,” said Davis, who has fulfilled more than 200 wishes from Lebanon County kids in her 29 years as a wish granter and special events coordinator. “We are helping people in our community, and the families and children need help. It could be your neighbor. With this event, we’re able to grant more wishes.”

Lebanon native and Pickleball for Wishes organizer Sherrie Davis. In her 29 years as a wish granter and special events organizer, Davis has granted the wishes of more than 200 Lebanon County children. (Jeff Falk)

Jamie does not know how to play pickleball. But Maya has promised to teach her.

For more information about Make-A-Wish or to sponsor the event, call Davis at 717-813-4229 or email her at

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Jeff Falk is a seasoned journalist based in Lebanon, PA. He's a graduate of Cedar Crest High School, Penn State University, and a lifelong resident of Lebanon, born and raised. Currently, he is a feature writer for Engle Publishing in Lancaster, the editor of, sports director at WLBR...