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Savvy Slam benefits program that helps children and families in medical crises


Chris and Justine Kresl, a married couple from Lakeland, warm up before a mixed doubles match.
Chris and Justine Kresl, a married couple from Lakeland, warm up before a mixed doubles match.

The pickleball courts at Rowlett Park recently were filled with players competing in the Savvy Slam, a charitable event for Savvy Giving By Design. It went over so well that organizers

already are planning another one.


“We’re going to plan on doing it, for sure, again,” said Lisa Krawetz, co-founder of Pickletopia along with Debbie Cagnina and Trevor Smith. “It was a win-win day for the pickleball players and the children who will benefit from the money raised. My heart

was so happy to see this tournament happen.”


Added Cagnina, “It was great to see all my pickleball friends and the community

gather together to play with a purpose for Savvy Giving by Design.”


No date has been set but Krawetz said another Savvy Slam will be scheduled

sometime in 2024. The plan is to find a date that doesn’t conflict with league play or

other pickleball tourneys.

Rob Marshall and Brian Liotta play Sammy Samuels and Damaso Bautista in men’s doubles.
Rob Marshall and Brian Liotta took on Sammy Samuels and Damaso Bautista in men’s doubles.

In all, 135 players competed in the Savvy Slam for gold, silver and bronze medals in eight divisions.


About $22,000 was raised for Savvy Giving by Design, a national program that expanded to the Tampa Bay area in 2018 and has since generated more than $120,000 locally. Those

funds also have come from golf tournaments and yoga events.


The nonprofit aims to redesign rooms and interior spaces for children and families facing medical crises. So far, 25 rooms have been redesigned throughout Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Polk and Mantee counties, said Kylie Ponton, founder of the organization’s Tampa

chapter.

Kylie Ponton, founder of the Tampa chapter’s Savvy Giving By Design, is flanked by volunteers Adrianna Plotner and Beth Ibarra.
Kylie Ponton, founder of the Tampa chapter’s Savvy Giving By Design, is flanked by volunteers Adrianna Plotner and Beth Ibarra.

“Lisa has been involved in my nonprofit since Day 1,” said Ponton, who recalled Krawetz suggesting a pickleball tourney as a fundraiser. “I said, ‘Let’s do it.’”


While the Pickletopia co-founders are avid players and instructors, Ponton has yet to get on the court with a paddle. Nonetheless, she hasn’t ruled that out someday.


“I have never played, but I do want to try it,” said Ponton, who is from Australia where she played netball, which originated in England in the 19th century and has similarities to

basketball.

Lisa Krawetz and Debbie Cagnina, two of the three co-founders of Pickletopia, pose for a photo.
Lisa Krawetz and Debbie Cagnina (along with Trevor Smith, not shown) are co-founders of Pickletopia.

As is the case in tourneys, there was a mix of accomplished players and newcomers. Lakeland’s Chris Kresl and his wife Justine, who have played pickleball for about a year and

entered tourneys individually, decided to play together in mixed doubles for the first time.


“I think we make a good match,” Justine said.


Among the division winners were Tampa’s Johan Skantze and his wife Stephanie, who finished first in 3.5 mixed doubles.


Stephanie attributed their success to “communication and having fun.”


By Steve Lee

Times Total Media Correspondent

Photos by Steve Lee

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