A pickleball tournament that ended Sunday in Wheeling was much more than a competition for elite players in the Northwest suburbs.
For two of those players, Thea Froehling and Dana Joseph, the tournament was a charity fundraiser, memorial, loving tribute and a chance for healing.
Froehling organized the inaugural event in memory of Dennis Raber, the late son of friends. Raber, 29, died from a heroin overdose in February after about a year and a half of sobriety.
Joseph, Froehling's player partner, also helped organize the tournament in honor of her 24-year-old nephew, Devin Berlin, who died from an overdose last November.
Proceeds from the two-day tournament supported A Man in Recovery Foundation, a Naperville group started by Tim Ryan, a former addict who helped Raber start a treatment program.
With the blessing of Raber's parents, Froehling paid tribute to their son, a Lockport native, with memory boards set up at the tournament in the Wheeling Park District Community Recreation Center.
"They thank Tim Ryan for him giving their son back to him, for the year and a half that he was sober," the Arlington Heights woman said ahead of the event. "That struck me."
The organizers called the event, "Dink for Hope," as a nod to the dink shot in pickleball and the title of Ryan's 2017 book, "From Dope to Hope: A Man In Recovery."