Smashing birdies to fight cancer

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Andrea McNally won the No. 1 singles title at last week’s New Trier Featherfest. McNally and her teammates have organized a fundraiser to fight cancer to help their current JV coach, Dennis Karnstedt, who will have surgery next month. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media.

Six years ago, Dennis Karnstedt ran the Boston Marathon and finished third in his age division.

Next month, Karnstedt will return to Boston under far different circumstances. Hinsdale South’s veteran badminton coach leaves May 17 and is expected to have cancer surgery one week later at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/ Harvard Medical School. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer with increasing survival rates over the last decade.

“I’m an active guy. I was playing basketball with some younger teachers in the fall and winter,” Karnstedt said. “I knew something was wrong. I had a cardiac investigation to find out my heart was fine and ultimately it was my left lung that was not.”

Hinsdale South’s highly regarded badminton program has rallied around Karnstedt, 66, who led the Hornets as varsity coach to their first state title in 1999. He retired as a science teacher after 32 years at Hinsdale South in 2000, but stayed involved in the badminton program and is currently the team’s JV coach. His wife, Pamela Baker, is an English teacher at Hinsdale South and is the director of the school’s drama department.

The badminton program used its annual Hinsdale South ABCD Invitational last year to raise $6,000 for Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. This year’s tournament, beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday, has taken on a more personal cause. All proceeds for this year’s tournament will be donated to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s International Mesothelioma Program in honor of Karnstedt (pictured right) . Hornets players have been selling T-shirts at the school the past few weeks and will have more shirts available at Saturday’s tournament. Gift baskets and prizes will be raffled or auctioned off between 10 a.m.-2 p.m. for items that include gift certificates, baked goods and sports memorabilia. The ABCD Invitational is expected to end around 6 p.m.

“I think it’s going to be very big,” said senior Andrea McNally, the Hornets’ No. 1 singles player. “We’ve been selling T-shirts and have done a lot so far. It’s an important cause. A lot of people are very close to Coach K.”

Donations will be accepted after the ABCD Invitational as well. Anyone wishing to help can send donations using the following information:

Over spring break, Karnstedt visited Brigham Hospital for a round of tests. His care and treatment is taken care of by insurance, so he is quick to point out that the badminton’s fundraiser is directed toward Brigham’s program instead of any personal cause.

“The response for me has been overwhelming,” Karnstedt said. “It’s hard for me to deal with. You don’t realize who many people you effect. The interest has been overwhelmingly positive. Things are going to work out.”

Hinsdale South became the favorite to win the state championship last week by winning its first New Trier Featherfest, beating Fremd 33-27 in the presitgious 16-team tournament. McNally beat Andrew’s Renee Olson, 21-7, 19-21, 21-10, to win the No. 1 singles championship. The Hornets also won at No. 1 doubles with Emma Adcock and Brittany DeClouette and at No. 4 singles with Marisa Mangiantini.

“I feel very confident,” McNally said. “When we came out of Featherfest with our team in first, that was a huge confidence boost for all of us. I hope we can carry that now that we are closer to the state meet.”

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