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Serving for a good cause

Benny Atkins, shown here with daughter Abbey Atkins, established the Kimberley Chance Atkins Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to breast cancer prevention, awareness and education, in honor of his late wife, Kimberley Chance Atkins, who died of breast cancer in 1999 at age 32. (Special Photo: Marvin Maner)

Benny Atkins, shown here with daughter Abbey Atkins, established the Kimberley Chance Atkins Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to breast cancer prevention, awareness and education, in honor of his late wife, Kimberley Chance Atkins, who died of breast cancer in 1999 at age 32. (Special Photo: Marvin Maner)

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An unidentified player returns a volley in the 2013 Kim Atkins Memorial Tennis Tournament, which helps raise money for low-income women and men to receive mammograms. The 2014 tournament will be held Aug. 22 to 24 at Summit Chase Country Club in Snellville. (Special Photo: Marvin Maner)

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A bucket of balls awaits the Ball Drop at the 2013 Kim Atkins Memorial Tennis Tournament, an event that will be held again at this year's tournament. Those interested may purchase a ball for $10 at the Breast Party in Town at Club 908 on Aug. 16 or Saturday morning, Aug. 23 at the tournament. Event organizers will drop 250 of the tennis balls at the tournament and the one that lands closest to the target wins $1,000. (Special Photo: Marvin Maner)

This may be the ninth year for the Kim Atkins Memorial Tennis Tournament, but enthusiasm for the event hasn’t waned. A few days ago, about 15 teams signed up to take advantage of an early deadline registration fee and Brenda Edwards, executive director of the Kimberley Chance Atkins Foundation, expects the number of two-member teams to exceed 70.

“We’ve done very well with (the tournament) and we’ve been very happy with participation. We have people from DeKalb, Gwinnett, Rockdale, Newton and Walton,” said Edwards.

This year’s Kim Atkins Memorial Tennis Tournament takes place Aug. 22 to 24 and the cost is $90 per team for adult doubles, or $50 per team for mixed doubles. Participants can register at www.kimatkins.net by Aug. 10.

Proceeds from the tournament benefit the Kimberley Chance Atkins Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to breast cancer prevention, awareness and education. The foundation was established five years ago in honor of Kimberley Chance Atkins, a Rockdale County teacher, wife and mother who died of breast cancer in 1999 at age 32. Atkins left behind husband Benny Atkins, chief operating officer of National EMS, and daughter Abbey, who is now a 19-year-old student at the University of North Georgia.

The tournament, which offers mixed doubles on Friday, and men’s and women’s doubles on Saturday and Sunday, will be in a new location this year. Instead of being held at the Rockdale Tennis Center on Parker Road, the event will take place at Summit Chase Country Club, at 3791 Classic Drive in Snellville. Edwards said that a number of players in the tournament, and also participants in the walkathon sponsored by KCAF each March, are members of the country club. The country club extended an invitation to the KCAF to hold the tournament there, free of charge.

“We said ‘Wow.’ We were very impressed that our name had spread,” said Edwards.

The country club offers covered viewing areas and an air-conditioned dining area. The club has also offered to coordinate the grilling of hot dogs and hamburgers.

“They have basically opened their doors to us and been very gracious,” said Edwards. “We hated to leave Rockdale Tennis Center, but we said we’re going to try some other venue and spread (the tournament) out over the east metro counties.”

The tournament is one of two primary fundraisers for the KCAF and profits between $30,000 and $40,000 each year.

Providing an additional $10,000 is the Breast Party in Town, held in conjunction with the tennis tournament. This year the party will take place Aug. 16 at 7 p.m. at Club 908 in Olde Town Conyers. Those registered for the tennis tournament get one free ticket to the event; admission for those not playing tennis is $25.

The party offers Mexican food, live entertainment, a cash bar, silent auction and raffle. Raffle items include a Green Egg, a 58-inch flat screen television, and a quilt. Silent auction items include restaurant gift certificates, art, jewelry and vacation packages.

Money generated by KCAF fundraisers finances mammograms and follow-up diagnostic testing to low-income women and men who are either underinsured or uninsured.

KCAF works with Rockdale Medical Center, Newton Medical Center, health departments in both Rockdale and Newton counties, and Diagnostic Imaging Specialists to offer the medical procedures.

To date, the KCAF has funded 267 mammograms at RMC and 193 mammograms at NMC, as well as follow-up procedures such as biopsies, bilateral or unilateral views, magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasounds.

In offering a snapshot of the nonprofit’s work, Edwards said that in the last six months, KCAF has provided 43 mammograms and six additional procedures in Rockdale and 57 mammograms and seven additional procedures in Newton.

“In some cases, we pay over $1,000 for a client,” explained Edwards.

So far, only one person, in Rockdale, has been diagnosed with cancer.

In addition to providing mammograms, KCAF also provides educational programs about breast health, stressing the importance of early detection of breast cancer, treatment options and recovery. Edwards presents the programs at locations including church groups, civic clubs and health fairs.

Edwards, who is the only paid staff member of KCAF, said the foundation couldn’t operate without its volunteers.

“We have a very strong group that works for the foundation and they are just very dedicated, giving people of their time and their money. Benny (Atkins), of course, has been the driving force, always encouraging and wanting more. We’re a very good group of people that work together,” said Edwards.

Herself a breast cancer survivor, Edwards said she enjoys helping and encouraging others battling breast cancer. Every week, the phone rings with someone asking how they can help the foundation or how the foundation can help them, she said.

She and another board member, who is also a survivor, recently had lunch with a woman who wanted more information and support after her diagnosis with breast cancer.

“What keeps me going is I want to make the journey a little less painful for them,” said Edwards. “In most cases, everyone can get through this. It’s a hurdle someone can go through in life, but it’s something you can get over.”