Kerri Castello

The Serving Hope Tennis Challenge Tournament is in memory of Kerri Castello and her courageous fight against cancer. Kerri was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer, in August of 2000. Once the diagnosis was made the first choice of care was St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The cancer had already spread to her lungs by the time the tumor in her arm was discovered. Kerri was a true fighter and was courageous throughout the long series of treatments and surgeries at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

During the days at St. Jude, Kerri focused on her studies as she battled cancer, taking full advantage of the school program St. Jude offered, and working closely with her school at home, UMS-Wright. She knew that to reach her dream of admissions into Notre Dame, she must continue on her path of high academic standards. Qualifying for admissions turned out to be no problem. Kerri became the first patient at St. Jude to take the ACT and SAT at the hospital while undergoing chemotherapy. She scored 32 out of a possible 36 on the ACT, with a perfect 36 on the science portion, placing her in the 99 percentile of college bound students. Thanks to Kerri and her emphasis on academics while battling cancer, St. Jude is now an official testing sight for both the ACT and the SAT. Kerri’s score of 32 allowed her to gain early acceptance to Notre Dame as a Notre Dame scholar, meaning she rated among the top 20 percent of all admitted students. Kerri was able to visit Notre Dame University in March of 2002 shortly before her death. Notre Dame later built a memorial garden in honor of her young life and her academic ability, while also establishing a scholarship in her memory.

Kerri was an influential teenager. She was an honor student, star basketball player at UMS Wright in Mobile, AL. In addition, Kerri was also involved in several clubs and played on the UMS Wright tennis team. UMS also built a memorial garden for Kerri at the school. Kerri was the spiritual director of the youth council at her church and enjoyed working on mission trips and Habitat for Humanity homes.

In December of 2001 Kerri was one of the official Olympic Torch barriers for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Kerri’s classmates traveled all night on two buses to cheer her on wearing their “Kerri’s Angels” shirts. Today many of the “Kerri’s Angles” are supporting St. Jude through fund raising activities and specifically helping raise money for the Serving Hope Tennis Tournament.

Kerri died at home on April 30, 2002 less than 2 weeks after her 18th birthday. Through out her fight, she would often say, “I’m not afraid of dying, I’m just afraid of not living.” Even in her death she hoped to make a difference by donating her body to science through the University of South Alabama’s donation program. Kerri’s corneas were the only organs that could be transplanted and were successfully transplanted in 2 different patients in Alabama, while her body helped in research.

Kerri often said she was waiting for her miracle and the truth be known as Luneatha Britton, St. Jude nurse, said at her memorial service, “what Kerri did not realize was that she was the miracle.”

Kerri brightened the world for all who knew her in her short 18 years. Her smile, her courage and her remarkable positive attitude were inspirational to all around her. Honoring Kerri in the first annual Tennis Challenge is continuing the dream of Kerri, to help find a cure for Osteosarcoma and all childhood cancers.