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AIDS TASKFORCE RAISES OVER $180,000 AT WTT SMASH HITS

Professional tennis took center stage in Cleveland last night to raise money and awareness for HIV/AIDS. Several of the biggest names in tennis and music legend Sir Elton John came together at the 19th annual WTT Smash Hits presented by GEICO on Thursday night at Cleveland Public Hall, raising more than $500,000 for the Elton John AIDS Foundation and the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland. More than $180,000 will stay right here in Cleveland with the AIDS Taskforce.

Smash Hits has been hosted by Sir Elton John and Billie Jean King since 1993 and has raised more than $10.5 million for the Elton John AIDS Foundation and local AIDS charities across the US and was staged in Cleveland for the first time last night.

Before the on-court action began, the co-hosts and players attended a pre-match reception and live auction. The top auction items of the night were the two popular Billie Jean King hitting sessions, which King served up for $17,000 each. Other auction items were a 2012 Super Bowl Package, two Elton John-signed piano benches, hitting sessions with Andy Roddick and Martina Navratilova, and a French Open package. The live and silent auctions raised more than $155,000 of the evening’s total. The reception, chaired by avid tennis lovers Rick and Sheila Chiricosta, netted more than $105,000 – all of goes to the AIDS Taskforce. The auction proceeds are split equally between the Taskforce and the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

“What an amazing event,” said Taskforce CEO Tracy Jones, “we are so thrilled to have been a part of it. We cannot thank Sir Elton John, Billie Jean King and all of the players enough for helping us raise these much needed dollars. Every penny raised will be put to work helping our clients live healthier, stronger lives and continue to help us fight the further spread of HIV.”

Following the auction, the crowd was treated to an exciting night of tennis. Sir Elton John kicked the evening off, partnering Martina Navratilova with a victory against John McEnroe and Amelie Mauresmo in an entertaining celebrity doubles set. The excitement continued with a series of sets featuring Navratilova, McEnroe, Mauresmo, Andy Roddick, Jan-Michael Gambill, local tennis hero Lauren Davis, Coco Vandeweghe and Mark Knowles. Team Elton rallied to win the overall match over Team Billie Jean 19-18 in front of a crowd of 3,477 fans.

GEICO is the presenting sponsor of WTT Smash Hits, which is hosted by Medical Mutual of Ohio. For more information on WTT Smash Hits, visit www.WTT.com/SmashHits. Further information about the AIDS Taskforce can be found at www.aidstaskforce.org.

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Media Contacts:

John Farina – AIDS Taskforce, 216-357-2221 or jfarina@atfgc.org
Garith Fulham – AIDS Taskforce, 216-621-0766 or gfulham@atfgc.org