Hundreds of people wearing T-shirts that read, “Tough times don’t last … tough people do,” left the concourse at Portsmouth High School to raise money for the Courtney Clifford Outstanding Achievement Scholarship Fund, while at the same time on the adjoining tennis courts, people were raising money for the Steven A. Hunter Hope Fund.
“We’ve had so many friends and family that have helped us,” said Mary Clifford, Courtney Clifford’s mother. “Mark and Susie Riddlebarger have been instrumental from the beginning. They helped us establish the scholarship. And they say they are going to carry on Courtney’s legacy and make an impact. We’re going to get the word out on awareness. We‘re going to carry on the good work.”
Clifford, a high school and college athlete and scholar, died in February after a long battle with ovarian cancer.
“This award is given yearly to a graduating senior at Portsmouth High School. And when we set this up, Courtney kind of wanted us to do this, but we didn’t want to give it to somebody just based on a need situation,” said Curt Clifford, Courtney’s father. “We wanted to give it to someone that closely paralleled Courtney’s thoughts and beliefs, and the way she was dedicated as a student-athlete at Portsmouth High School and at UNC-Charlotte.”
Curt Clifford said the first recipient last year was Allie Shultz.
“We thought she was a perfect recipient of the award. And we couldn’t have been happier to hand it to her, and we’re looking forward to giving it out again this year,” Curt Clifford said.
Mary Clifford said the scholarship is housed with the Scioto Foundation, in a perpetual fund. Donations may be made at the Scioto Foundation.
Curt Clifford talked about the large turnout for the event.
“The more people who come down, the more money we can raise,” Curt Clifford said. “The more money we can give to a deserving senior at Portsmouth High School who is going to continue their education.”
Mary Clifford said the event was scheduled in September because it is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.
“We also wanted to have it in conjunction with the Steven A. Hunter Hope Fund Tennis Tournament,” Mary Clifford said. “So we just think it’s a great weekend for people to come down and celebrate two great lives.”
Hunter died in 2006 while at Milligan College, and a fund was set up to help students at Portsmouth High School with necessities.
“The fund was established to try to carry on the kinds of things that Steven did,” said Mark Hunter, Steven Hunter’s father. “A very compassionate young man who cared for everybody, especially for those who didn’t have the things that he had.”
Hunter said those involved with the fund were proud to add New Boston to Steven’s Power Pack program, that supplies food for about 150 children each weekend.
“It has been a dream for several years now to go to some additional schools, but we didn’t think we could do that,” Mark Hunter said. “But the need is definitely there.”
The fund is also distributing clothing, making eye exams available and providing field trip excursion fees.
“There are so many fees now that are not covered like they used to be,” Hunter said. “So we are just very blessed. The community has been a tremendous support, and they continue to be. This will be our new record fundraising-wise for the tournament.”
Jim Daehler is the Steven A. Hunter Tennis Tournament chairman.
“We were real pleased at the very end when our number of players got up to almost our record from two years ago, but we’ve got around 51 players now, and we’re just really happy that such a high percentage of our players have been so loyal, because about three-quarters of the players have been in every year or at least participated one time,” Daehler said. “This is a very special year for us because we are having it in memory of Courtney (Clifford).”
Hunter said the fund has grown each year since being started in 2006.
“Even in this economy, people will amaze you,” Hunter said. “People’s hearts are so big. We’re just thrilled to honor Courtney this year. It’s something (Mark’s wife) Virgie and I felt very strong about, and had actually decided to do that when she (Clifford) went to heaven earlier this year. We always had hoped Courtney could play in our tournament. And one year she did actually feel well enough to show up. And we were just so happy to even have her at the tournament.”
FRANK LEWIS may be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 232, or firstname.lastname@example.org.