UI student takes love for tennis to raise money for stroke awareness

UI medical student Chirayu Shukla created “Groundstrokes for Strokes” to raise money for research after his grandmother suffered a stroke.


Matthew Kennedy

The first day of the fundraising event is held at the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreational Complex, on Friday, Oct. 7, 2022.

Sofia Mamakos, News Reporter

University of Iowa students and Iowa City residents hit groundstrokes in the event to raise money for “Groundstrokes for Strokes” from Oct. 7-9.

Second-year UI medical student Chirayu Shukla organized the tennis philanthropy event to raise money for stroke research in honor of his grandmother who suffered from a stroke.

“My grandmother actually had a stroke back when I was in high school, and she lives in a village in India, so the hospital was nowhere near her,” Shukla said. “So, unfortunately, she didn’t get enough treatment, and by then the damage was too far gone.”

Shukla has planned the event’s debut since last December.

This experience, along with his love for tennis, inspired Shukla to give back to others whose lives have also been impacted by strokes.

“I play a lot of tennis, just competitively and for fun,” Shukla said. “So, it was kind of just a cool way for me to combine both of those things together.

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A groundstroke refers to a forehand or backhand shot that is hit after the ball has bounced once on the court.

All of the proceeds will go to the Stockmore Adams Stroke Education and Research Fund to sponsor stroke research and stroke clinicians to improve post-stroke care.

“Since this is our first year, we were keeping our goals modest, and based on how much other med school events raised, we were aiming to raise about $3,000 or so, and I’m pretty sure we’ve passed that,” Shukla said.

The event was held at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Center and Liberty High School courts. The event consists of two parts, he said.

“The first part is that it’s like an adult tennis camp, so we teach beginners how to play,” Shulka said. “They don’t even need their own rackets. They can just come to the event. We’ll teach them how to do the basics of tennis.”

For experienced attendees, Shukla and his volunteers will lead them through drills and games.

Anyone over 18 can participate, Shukla said, but participants must pay a small participation fee.

“It’s $8 for an hour-long class, $10 for an hour-and-a-half-long class, and then you get discounts if you sign up for five or more classes,” Shukla said. “We’ve sold about 120 tickets. We have 500 total tickets available, so it’s picking up pace slowly but surely.”

For those who can’t participate, people can donate to support Shukla’s cause.

Participant and medical student Shray Kumar played tennis in high school and took lessons for two or three years.

“I played tennis in high school and took lessons for two or three years. I figured it would just be a fun way to not only play tennis and have a good time with my friends but also just help a friend honor a loved one,” Kumar said.

UI medical student Matthew Engelken said Shukla is committed and passionate about his cause.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve had a new fundraiser to this magnitude, so I’m excited that Chirayu was able to have an idea to honor one of his family members and take it from that idea all the way to an event,” Engelken said.

Engelken, who is also participating in the event, does not have much prior experience with the sport. However, he said he was still excited to participate in the beginner events.

“It’s pretty inexpensive for beginner classes,’’ Engelken said. “So, to get out there and be able to learn tennis for a couple of hours seemed like a really good opportunity, and then being able to increase awareness for stroke research is something that I think is really important.”

An opportunity to raise awareness, learn new skill, and have fun were all large factors that pushed both Engelken and Kumar’s participation.

For Engelken, it is exciting to watch the community come together to support Shukla’s cause.

“I think it’s just a really cool process overall, so I’m excited to see it all play out. Embedded from a personal level, I’m excited to just get to learn some kindness,” he said. “I’m excited to go out and play with, you know, classmates, colleagues, those kinds of things, and just see what’s happening.”

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