June 2016 -- A heart of gold, an indomitable spirit, and a rigorous workout regimen - those are the ingredients 61-year-old USTA official and competitive tennis manager Bonnie Vona is depending on to propel her through a daunting 72-Hour Tennis Marathon Challenge in support of military families.
The Virginia mother of two women, one of whom is a First Lieutenant in the Army, is preparing to surpass the Guinness World Record number - 36 - for most consecutive opponents in tennis singles. Vona expects to reach 44 matches at the Montgomery TennisPlex in Maryland.
She has pledged to play for 72 hours over the July 4th weekend in support of ThanksUSA, a national charity that provides need-based scholarships for children and spouses of our U.S. Armed Forces. As Vona prepares for sleep deprivation and opponents line up (to register, see below), she answered questions about what lies ahead and why she cherishes ThanksUSA.
Seventy-two hours is a long time to stay awake and play tennis. What are the toughest physical challenges? I’m concerned about some of the physical aspects like blisters, ankle swelling, and just plain exhaustion. Will my arm get tired from serving? Can I hold onto a racquet for that long? What can I do to offset being tired? I’m training to build both strength and endurance by walking with wrist weights and a weight vest. Nutrition will be important during the event to maintain energy with caffeine, beets, vitamins, peanut butter cups and cappuccino! I know I’ll get a rush of adrenaline from greeting new opponents and passing hourly milestones.
Your workout regimen has been designed by Dr. Mark Kovacs of Atlanta’s Life University and a world-renowned expert in sport science. What have you two come up with? Mainly, I have to work on my overall conditioning and improve my core strength and flexibility. Exercises like the spiderman crawl, inchworm, and sumo squats help with flexibility; treadmill workouts and activities like hiking, tennis and kayaking will build endurance. I’m training every day and increasing my times and level of difficulty.
There are some practical questions here: how and what will you eat? I can grab a bite on each changeover as long as it doesn’t impede play; plus, I get a five-minute break for every hour played. I can take those every hour OR save them up. Will you have restroom breaks? We are parking a port-o-potty right outside the door!
This is a challenge from your heart. Tell us why you’re doing this. I’ve always been a supporter of our military. I had the opportunity to volunteer with the Red Cross and USO when I lived in Korea - one of the most rewarding things I’ve done. Now my daughter and son-in-law are in the military too. I care about their future and that of their colleagues. Military families sacrifice so much and ask for so little. They need our support, and education is a gift that never stops giving. It is my way of saying Thank You.
Education and military service are clearly critical in your life. What do ThanksUSA scholarships mean to military families? We constantly hear stories about family members who were not going to be able to go to college. These scholarships make a difference, offer the opportunity to pursue a degree and to change a future.
What can others do in connection with your Guinness World Record challenge? Join us! Sign up to play; ask your company to sponsor you or became an event sponsor; volunteer to help during the event; and spread the word through social media!
What is your biggest concern? I don’t want to fail – especially for those who are supporting my efforts: ThanksUSA, Dr. Mark Kovacs and Life University, friends and family. And of course, all the military families.
How can the public follow your progress? Find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @Tennis Thanks the Troops, @ThanksUSA, or @10sBon. Our hashtags are #GoBonnie and #72hrSalute.
What is your goal for the number of ThanksUSA scholarships that will result from this? We hope to fund at least 75 scholarships, worth $3,000 each.
Thank you and good luck!
ADDvantage subscribers who would like to support military families through Bonnie Vona’s 72-Hour Tennis Marathon Challenge can register to play ($500) or volunteer at www.ThanksUSA.org/72-Hour-Salute.
ThanksUSA is a non-partisan, charitable effort to mobilize Americans of all ages to "thank" the men and women of the United States Armed Forces by providing college, technical and vocational school scholarships for their children and spouses. For more information, visit www.ThanksUSA.org.