Celebrities, ping pong, a new tennis table, and, oh yea, a new car

VIRGINIA BEACH By Rami Yoakum August 25, 2018
— Some people are good at guessing games and some people aren’t.

For those who are, there’s a chance to win a brand new KETTLER ping pong table. For those who aren’t, there still a chance to win a little something – in the form of a brand new 2018 Lexus NX.

It’s all part of “Ping Pong for Charity,” a fundraising event put on by the local charity Ping Pong Gives.

Ken Lees, who founded the Ping Pong Gives 10 years ago, said it was a chance to raise money for improved mental health and brain wellness in a unique way, by bringing pros, amateurs, and celebrity guests together and letting people mingle with them and watch them play.

“One day it dawned on me that most nonprofits typically do a golf outing or a walk or even a 5k when they want to do a fundraiser,” said Lees, a former marketing man. “But when’s the last time a ping pong tournament came to town?”

Lees said almost everyone he talked to had played ping pong (or table tennis) at one time or another. The first year he organized a tournament they used 12 scratch-and-dent tables and 65 people showed up in a church basement.

This year there will be 200-plus people ages 8-to-88 and 30 brand new tables.

Charles Barker Lexis Salesman Virgil Thornton Sr. pours ping pong balls into a new Lexus in the dealership’s showroom

Lees said the event provides a platform to talk about mental health and brain wellness and to bring table tennis into communities. Table tennis, he said, has been clinically proven to improve brain function.

Entering to win the table and the car cost nothing. Funds are raised through corporate sponsorships, ticket sales to a party and the celebrity SlamFest, as well as a live auction, a silent auction, and donations.

The money raised goes to local charities such as Vanguard Landing; People in Need; American Parkinson’s Disease Association; Have Fund, Do Good, End Alzheimer’s; and new this year, EVMS’s Glennan Center.

Charles Barker Lexus General Manager Brian Clark said Ping Pong Gives is a solid organization.

“It’s a great cause,” he said as he watched a new Lexus in their Virginia Beach Boulevard showroom being filled up with ping pong balls. “I’ve known Ken outside of the auto industry and I was thrilled when he asked up to take part.”

The contest will work like this: Anyone can enter and there’s no cost to guess how many ping pong balls are in the new Lexus. Whomever comes the closest without going over will win the new tennis table, a $799 value.

Everyone who takes a guess at the number of ping pong balls, whether they’re close or not close at all, is automatically entered to win the new Lexus, the drawing for which will be on Jan. 2, 2019.

The Celebrity SlamFest takes place Sept. 21 and the tournament the next day, with both taking place at the Virginia Beach Field House.

Scheduled to appear during the SlamFest are Christian Laettner and Kenny Dennard, former Duke basketball stars and NBA players; Adoni Maropis, actor on the television series “24” and a tennis table champion; Dean Johnson, table tennis hall of famer; and Ioanna Papadimitriou, a model, former Miss Greece, and a Greek National Champion.

Those who attend will have the chance to mingle and get autographs.

Anyone can enter to win a new Lexus NX

The person who comes the closest to guessing the number of ping pong balls in the car without going over wins a brand new Kettler tennis table.

Ken Lees, left, founder of Ping Pong Gives, and Brian Clark, Charles Barker Lexus GM, on Thursday after the car was filled with ping pong balls

Everyone who takes a guess will be entered to win this 2018 Lexus NX.

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