US Open Tennis

Melanie Oudin returns a shot to Lucie Safarova, of Czechoslovakia, in the first round of play at the 2012 US Open tennis tournament in 2012 in New York. Oudin, of Marietta, will be the featured speaker at the Highland Rivers Foundation tennis-themed fundraiser Sept. 8 at Lawrence Plantation, 127 Winding Road SW, Rome.

Nikki Kemp was only 11 when she started using mind-altering substances. By the time she was 14, she had turned to meth.

“I hit rock bottom multiple times,” said Kemp, who had been sexually abused as a child and whose parents were both addicts. “It was a very unhealthy, chaotic life. I used substances so I didn’t have to feel anything.”

It wasn’t until she risked losing her 17-month-old daughter and her unborn second child six years ago that she agreed to enter the Women’s Outreach recovery program offered by Highland Rivers in Rome.

“They believed in me until I could believe in myself,” Kemp, 29, said of the Highland Rivers program. “They taught me how to be a parent to my children and really learn who I was.”

She has now been sober and healthy — with two “beautiful, healthy children” — for six years and eight months and proudly serves as the program manager for the new Highland Rivers Addiction Recovery Support Center in Cedartown.

Although public speaking makes Kemp very nervous, she has agreed to share her story she’s titled “Hope Plus Resiliency Equals Triumph” with a room full of guests at the first fundraiser for the newly-formed Highland Rivers Foundation Sept. 8 at the Lawrence Plantation in Rome.

Kemp will not only join others in recovery sharing their stories at the Tennis Carnival and Ball, but keynote speaker Melanie Oudin, former Junior World No. 2 tennis pro from Marietta.

Oudin, who is donating her time for the event, overcame her own personal obstacles and adversities as she was battling for a top spot in the tennis world, according to Highland Rivers Health Community Relations Director Michael Mullet.

“We’re excited to have her participate in this,” Mullet said, adding Highland Rivers Foundation hopes to raise at least $10K during the family fundraiser to enable more people like Kemp and others struggling with a variety of behavioral health or developmental issues to get the help they need. “We’re planning on doing a variety of fundraisers to cover different parts of the communities we serve. This gets the ball rolling, so to speak.”

The Tennis Carnival and Court Couture Ball will feature two events for a day of “affordable family fun,” Mullet said.

For a donation of $25 per family, the carnival will run from 2 to 5 p.m. and include a fast-serve speed clock, “live ball” cardio tennis and USTA tennis instruction for youngsters and adults.

Following the carnival, a “come as you are” dinner at 6 p.m. in the Lawrence Plantation dining room will serve up four entrees in a buffet catered by Provino’s Italian Restaurant for a $75 donation for two tickets.

The event will also will feature a silent auction that includes a Florida beach getaway and live music by Mullet and Rome’s Silver Dollar Duo.

Community members or businesses also will have an opportunity to become table sponsors, which range from $1,000 to $5,000 and include 10 dinner tickets, carnival passes and special recognitions. Lower-priced sponsorships also are available.

For information about becoming a sponsor, contact Laura Citron at 706-270-5000, ext. 1118, or Event tickets can be purchased at the door or online at

“This is just a great way for families to get out and do some fun tennis stuff and support a great cause,” Mullet said.

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