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White Bear Lake tennis tournament draws top players and raises money for pediatric cancer research

Hundreds of tennis players, pros and youth, are playing in a competition that's been helping Children's Minnesota Hospital for 37 years.

WHITE BEAR LAKE, Minn. — Practice makes perfect for the 37th annual Pine Tree Apple Tennis Classic, coming Aug. 4-7.

The special tennis tournament starting Thursday in White Bear Lake is an ace at helping cancer research. 

"It's a high level... I can't even explain to people who haven't seen it. It's really like being courtside at a Division 1 college match or at the U.S. Open," explained Matt Narr, the tennis manager of Life Time Fitness in White Bear Lake, the site of the four day event.

Top players from the region and beyond get invitations to compete. One hundred fifty players are coming; adults, and kids who can compete in a junior event.

Narr admits players want to win, but the most important thing is raising money for pediatric cancer research at Children's Minnesota. "They've done some research with looking at gene abnormalities, and any mutations in DNA, which is helping to diagnose cancer earlier within kids before the tumor has a chance to really grow," said Narr.

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Marla Menne is the 2021 Pine Tree Apple Tennis Classic champion and will defend her title at the event. She's also excited to help a good cause. "It's nice when you do get to meet the families of the patients that have gone through some of these hard times," she said.

This year's goal is to raise $360,000 for necessary treatments.

The event is more like a party, with music, food vendors, and crafts for kids. Best of all, it's free to watch.

In 1986, Ron and Mary Ann Peterson created the tournament when their 12-year-old daughter, Julieann, was diagnosed with leukemia.

The Petersons wanted to raise money and provide the medical professionals at Children's Minnesota a way to conduct critical research while still performing the crucial efforts of treating children with cancer. 

Since the inaugural tournament, almost $6.4 million has been raised by this grassroots community event.

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