Tennis fundraiser helps support passionate athlete in need
Last year, Steven Laquerre was forced to give up his passion for tennis as the high school athlete faced a debilitating liver failure diagnosis. But on July 28, he picked up a racquet for the first time at Dartmouth Indoor Tennis during a fundraiser to help support his recovery.
The 18-year-old recent graduate of Tiverton High School had been a star tennis player on the school’s varsity team since his freshman year until his health took a downturn, necessitating long hospital stays and a liver transplant.
Diagnosed with a rare immunodeficiency disorder at birth, the Tiverton, Rhode Island resident still led a healthy life, and picked up a passion for tennis from his grandparents.
“My grandparents grew up in the Nadal-Federer age and so I grew up watching [tennis],” Laquerre said. “As soon as I could walk I was kind of playing.”
He attended classes at Dartmouth Indoor Tennis for years, and played on the club team. It helped prepare him for his high school career, where he quickly joined the varsity team in his freshman year.
Laquerre began feeling sick last year, and after extensive testing and appointments, he was diagnosed with liver failure and hepatopulmonary syndrome. Unable to breathe on his own, he had to be hospitalized long-term in April.
He received a liver transplant two months ago, and was able to graduate with his classmates in June. While his health has improved, he still needs a bone marrow transplant, which he will receive in several months. With his mother out of work to care for him and medical bills mounting, the family needed help.
That’s where Eric Belinkoff stepped in. He runs Dartmouth Indoor Tennis with his wife Cynthia, and during the summers, when the facility is usually closed as teams and students practice outdoors, they hosts fundraisers and benefit tournaments.
“He’s a good kid all around, and we were glad to do this,” Belinkoff said, noting that with Laquerre on the varsity team, Tiverton High School secured its first state tournament win in years.
Throughout the day on July 28, kids and adults of all ages stopped by to participate in singles, doubles, and pickle ball games to help raise funds to cover health care costs the Laquerres’ insurance will not cover. Belinkoff anticipated about 150 people to show up by the end of the event.
Laquerre himself picked up a racquet and stepped onto the court -- the first time he’s felt well enough to play his sport in over a year.
“It still felt normal,” Laquerre said. “It feels really good just to be back. This is the one sport that I’ve always done and been decent in it, so it feels good.”
In addition to fundraisers, the Laquerres’ have also set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to support Stephen’s medical bills. Visit gofundme.com/BelieveInSteve2000 for more information and to donate.