What does a tennis professional, once the number two player in the world, do after a shoulder injury ends her career at the age of only 19? When a shoulder injury prematurely cut short her career while she was in her prime, Andrea Jaeger found an even greater purpose in life in helping terminally ill children with cancer and other serious illnesses. After founding her Silver Lining Foundation in Aspen, Colorado, to serve the children, the former tennis star has been helped in her mission by those in and out of the sports world, including tennis stars John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, and Pete Sampras; basketball star David Robinson; actor Kevin Costner; and supermodel Cindy Crawford, who lost a brother to leukemia.
Andrea Jaeger, who became a tennis professional at the tender age of 14 in 1980, was born June 4, 1965 in Chicago, Illinois. During her career she won ten WTA tour single titles, two doubles titles, and $1,379,066, before an injury cut short her career in 1985. She had a 260-85 singles record. During her career, she rose to become the number two player in the world and recorded victories over such stars as Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. She reached the final of the French Open in 1982 and the final of Wimbledon in 1983, (She defeated Billie Jean King at that tournament) losing both times to Navratilova, the U.S. Open semifinals in 1980 and 1982, and the semifinals of the Australian Open in 1982.
While she was playing tennis, the star determined that even though the chance to be a professional provided a great opportunity, the sport did not satisfy her desire to serve others and for a meaning in life. Andrea never talked about the personal faith she had come to have, despite coming from a family whose members did not have an individual faith. She did pray often and felt guided to help those less fortunate.
While the star was playing in New York City, the idea came to her to buy toys for children at the Helen Hayes Hospital. She bought dolls, games, and stuffed animals and went to take them to the hospital. While she expected to help others, she felt challenged herself by the things she saw.
She said in an interview on the website, www.christianity.com, that she played video games with a boy without hands. Before she knew it she was having fun, and the room was filled with nurses, other children, and family members, and “I knew at that point I wanted to help kids.”
After the injury, Andrea Jaeger found she was no longer in the limelight. She found to her dismay that some people no longer cared for her when she was not able to be a tennis star, and so she began to research children’s charities and decided to create a foundation to help the children who had inspired her. The former tennis star used the $1.3 million she had won playing tennis as seed money to start the foundation.
“I was then able to develop all my energy to develop custom made programs for those special kids,” Andrea Jaeger said on the official website of the foundation (which was founded in 1990), www.silverliningfoundation.org.
Her foundation brings children from all over the world for an all expense paid week in Aspen. Instead of being in a hospital, the children get to go white water rafting, horseback riding, on gondola rides up Aspen Mountain, and skiing. They also get to make lifetime friends. The foundation spends $2.3 million annually on its programs and also provides college scholarships and medical internships.
Model campers then return later as junior staff or editors of the two newsletters of the former tennis star’s foundation.
Andrea Jaeger said she is often asked why she chose to pursue working with children with cancer. She said during her years as a professional tennis player, visiting children at hospitals was one of her favorite things to do. She said that watching the children fight for their lives on a daily basis convinced her they were models of hope and courage. She said she hopes the foundation will enable the children to regain some of their lost childhood.
The foundation received 10 acres of land in 1993 from Aspen residents Fritz and Babi Benedict. The land is surrounded by mountains, wildlife, and streams. Ted Forstmann gave $1.7 million to the building campaign.
When she is not at the ranch, Andrea Jaeger is often doing such things as speaking at fundraising dinners, youth events, schools, churches, and children’s hospitals throughout the world. In 2004 the former tennis star sent 575 copies of her autobiography, First Service: Finding God’s Calling and Finding Life’s purpose, to sportswriters and media representatives, and 125 children she took to the Wimbledon tournament.
Serving children isn’t reserved for those who go to Aspen either. The Dallas Morning News reported in 2004 that when Andrea Jaeger visited the Children’s Medical Center of Dallas she overheard a mother tell of wanting her daughter to get good care, but worrying about the expense. The former tennis star paid for all expenses on that day-Mother’s Day.
“That’s Andrea,” said her assistant Maja Mauriac. “Every day she does stuff like this. If you ask, she’ll say that God put her there to help that family.”
Andrea had flown to give gifts of her autobiography to children in the cancer center.
Some professional sports stars don’t know what to do with their lives after they retire from sports. Andrea Jaeger is one former star who, although she was forced to quit tennis after being injured, nevertheless found an even higher calling in life.