Paddles Up for Pickleball

October 31, 2022 by Beth Morgen

Suburban Hospital Foundation Trustee and Young Professionals Committee member hosts tournament to raise awareness of hospital’s mission and services

Romone Penny loves pickleball. So when an opportunity came up for his firm to sponsor a tournament of the sports trend taking the nation, especially when it would benefit his community hospital, he rallied his network and made it happen.

Suburban Hospital Foundation’s Romone Penny wears long dark pants and a dark t-shirt, smiles broadly and holds a pickleball paddle in his hand.
Suburban Hospital Foundation Board and Young Professional Committee member Romone Penny was excited for his firm Pursuit Sports Group to sponsor a community pickleball tournament to raise awareness of and support for the hospital.

The event was among the first that Penny and fellow members of Suburban Hospital Foundation’s new Young Professionals Committee (YPC) would host in 2022. Not only did the tournament raise support for and awareness of Suburban, a Johns Hopkins partner hospital in Bethesda, Maryland; it attracted the 20- and 30-somethings with whom the hospital would like to better engage.

“You may never know when it’s your time to be in the hospital or some family member or close friend is going to be in the hospital,” Penny, who is also a member of the foundation’s board of trustees, says. “But if you can have an informed and educated perspective of the hospital, and of Suburban in particular, I believe you’ll make better, more prudent decisions.”

Penny is the founder and CEO of Pursuit Sports Group, a wealth strategy consulting firm based in Washington, D.C., for pro athletes and sports organizations. The former tax accountant, basketball player, and now budding actor typifies the young professional that Janine Werkman, Suburban Hospital Foundation’s associate director of development, hoped to involve when she reached out to the foundation’s board members to recommend younger colleagues to help form the YPC.

“Romone was gung-ho right away,” Werkman says, giving a nod to Suburban Hospital Foundation Board member Mike Warsaw who recommended Penny, his close friend and former colleague at Ernst & Young where they once worked together.

Penny says that Warsaw’s volunteer work has always inspired him and helped convince him to get involved with the medical community, something he admits to being hesitant about in the past.

“Mike loves to give back, and I know it’s always to great causes,” Penny says. “I never really had close relationships with a doctor or a hospital. I’d kind of been reluctant to have them. So this is an opportunity to give back and learn more about hospitals and doctors and relationships. I can also share my feelings and opinions with the hospital staff and board to help better serve my community.”

Eleven Suburban Hospital Foundation pickleball tournament players smile as they stand and kneel with trophies in their hands.
Standing left to right: Pickleball tournament semi-finalists included Suburban Hospital Emergency Department (ED) nurses Ioanna Sanborn and Amy Chamberlin; ED physicians Dr. Todd Templeman and Dr. Sonia Qasba; and Suburban Hospital Foundation’s Associate Director Janine Werkman and Board members Manpreet Singh and Romone Penny. Kneeling: First place winners of the tournament represented the Edgemoor neighborhood in Bethesda, Maryland.

Serving as the foundation’s ambassadors to the community — to educate it on Suburban Hospital and help support its mission — is a key role of the YPC. The hospital is a major trauma center for Montgomery County, has separate emergency departments for children and adults, and specializes in cardiac and orthopaedic care. It is also home to a stroke center that partners with the National Institutes of Health, which is located right across the street from the hospital, on research in innovative stroke care.

“Young Professional Committee members can be the mouthpiece for what the hospital is doing,” Werkman says. “Whether it’s your parents who are getting older or your children who have a broken arm because of a soccer game, you should know who’s in your backyard and what we do, so we’re trying to do that through this committee.”

And what better way to spread the word on Suburban Hospital’s health services than through an event like pickleball? The September 24 tournament held at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., drew YPC members’ friends and colleagues from all over Maryland, D.C., and Virginia. Nearly 80 individuals competed on sponsored teams representing different neighborhoods, corporations, and sports programs. The tournament raised $10,000 — and counting — for Suburban Hospital and set the stage for future events, including making Pursuit Sport Group’s pickleball fundraiser an annual activity.

“We all created awareness about Suburban Hospital. We raised funds and people got to connect with other folks in the medical industry, business, sports, and entertainment,” Penny says. “That was a beautiful thing.”

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Topics: Faculty and Staff, Friends of Johns Hopkins Medicine, Strengthening Partnerships