“Sydney’s Best Day Ever” tennis festival welcomes children and families to come out to play tennis and donate money in support of Sydney Schnell and the Hematology and Oncology division at the Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

The event will be on March 1 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Ahwatukee Community Swim and Tennis Center and with a $10 entrance fee, guests will receive food and drinks.

Hosted by the Schnell family and the United States Tennis Association Southwest, this festival is for Lindsey and William Schnell’s daughter, Sydney Schnell, who was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder at 5 years old called ALPS, which stands for Autoimmune Lymphoproliferative Syndrome, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases website.

“It is very rare and there is not a lot of information on it,” Lindsey Schnell said. “We have gone to the National Institution of Health to try and find out what has been going on in Sydney’s body, but there is limited information as to how and why it happens.”

ALPS affects the immune system with an abnormally high amount of white blood cells that can cause autoimmune problems, Lindsey said.

The Schnell family chose the Phoenix Children’s Hospital for their daughter’s care because it provides the best care for them, Lindsey and William Schnell said.

“They do everything for its kids and they make it as comfortable as possible,” Lindsey said.

Both Lindsey and William are glad that Sydney has a passion for playing tennis and enjoy seeing her get out on the court and training with her coach, Tracy Lawson.

“It is easy to train Sydney because she is one of the hardest working kids out here,” Lawson said.

“When you find out that she has a low blood count and that she should be on the couch exhausted, it’s shocking to see her energy level and her positive attitude on the court.”

A typical day for Sydney is much like any other child. It consists of going to school, playing tennis and participating in Girl Scouts, Lindsey said.

“The hardest time for Sydney is when her blood levels drop because she has to miss one to two days of school and activities,” Lindsey said. “Her treatments last six hours in the hospital and the infusions come with side effects that sometimes affect Sydney the next day.”

Even though Sydney’s disorder is rare, her parents believe that she is one of the lucky ones, Lindsey and William Schnell said.

“Some children have terminal illnesses,” William said. “Sydney’s attitude while getting a treatment has been, ‘Well I’m lucky.’”

Lindsey and William Schnell want this festival to be fun for kids in all levels of the sport William said.

“Our goal for the event is for each court to have something different such as foot work and other fun drills,” William said.

Lawson has been preparing with the Schnell family for the event with the help of USTA, United States Tennis Association.

“I’m gathering the volunteers and connecting them with the USTA to get enough equipment and resources needed like the courts, making sure there are enough nets, balls and racquets,” Lawson said.

The Schnell family is hopeful that children and families from the community will come and participate in the festival. There will be plenty of kid-friendly activities that benefit a cause that many families can appreciate.

“We had a tennis festival here a year ago and 70 kids came, so we’re hoping to get that amount,” Lindsey said.

• Angela Crusco is a junior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. She is interning this semester for the AFN.

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