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NJTL of Trenton 30th Annual Gala - September 22, 2024

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FEATURING: KIM CLIJSTERS

Kim Clijsters  was born in Bilzen, Belgium to a very sporting family--her father Lei was a soccer coach and player, named as Belgium's 1988 Player of the Year, and her mother, Els, a Belgian champion in gymnastics--but for Kim it wall about tennis.  She started playing competitive tennis at the age of six and made her WTA debut in May 1999 in Antwerp.

     With her enthusiasm, talent and sportsmanship, she conquered the hearts of tennis fans and players both on the court and off in no time. In August 2013, she became the 13th player and first Belgian to hold the No.1 singles ranking, she spent a total of 20 weeks as WTA World No.1 and is one of just six women to own the WTA World No.1 ranking simultaneously in both singles and doubles. Clijsters won her first Grand Slam singles title at the US Open in 2005, before stepping away from the game in 2007 to start a family. Her stunning comeback two years later would produce a further three majors – the US Open in 2009 and 2010, and the Australian Open in 2011, taking her total haul of singles titles to 41; she also captured doubles crowns at Roland Garros and Wimbledon

in 2003 among 11 titles in the team discipline. Eight times the winner of the WTA’s Karen Krantzcke Sportsmanship Award, and was recently honored with induction to the International Tennis Hall of Fame’s Class of 2017. Kim stopped playing professional tennis in 2012, but made a short comeback in 2020 after 7 years of absence and participated in 5 tournaments (including the US Open of 2021) before retiring definitely in April 2022. Kim, now a mother of three, Jada, Jack and Blake, is still involved in tennis as WTA and PTPA Ambassador, honorary president of the International Tennis Hall of Fame the WTA year-end championships which she won on three occasions. She is also co-owner of the Las Vega Night Owls, a pickleball team that competes in the Major League Pickleball.  

     Clijsters won the WTA Tour season-ending Championships singles title three times (2002, 2003, 2010).  In 2001, she was part of the Belgium Fed Cup winning team.  Clijsters was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame on July 22, 2017 and was appointed Honorary President of the Hall of Fame on August 25, 2022.  

2024 Honorees: Sheryl & Joseph Punia

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Sheryl and Joseph Punia were both raised in Mercer County, Joe in Trenton and Sheryl in Hamilton and Lawrence Townships. Joe spent a large portion of his childhood playing sports with his friends in Cadwalader Park. Sheryl learned to play tennis at the Lawrence Township recreation system and later played tennis for Lawrence High School. Currently both Sheryl and Joe are avid tennis players and can proudly say they have been married for 45 years despite being mixed doubles partners at many tennis events.

     Sheryl graduated from the University of Maryland with a BA and received her Masters degree from Rider University. Her career in education was spent as a Middle School Teacher / Curriculum Specialist and Guidance Counselor in the East Windsor School District. Here she witnessed every day the difference that strong support and services mean to a family in need, to help students be successful and families survive difficult and many times overwhelming circumstances. Upon leaving East Windsor, she joined Corner House Counseling Center in Princeton as the Supervisor for Drug and Alcohol Prevention Programs that were placed in the public and private schools in the Princeton Community. 

In addition, Programs were specifically developed for At-Risk students including partnerships with Princeton University and Princeton Recreation Department. These programs provided critical mentoring, tutoring, and summer camp experiences for students in need. Sheryl served as President of the Board for Greenwood House as well as serving on the Boards of Women’s Division of Jewish Federation and The Art Therapy Project.

     

     Joe graduated with a BS in Civil Engineering from Carnegie Mellow University and MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Joe has spent his entire business career in the commercial real estate business, mostly in the family business.

     Sheryl and Joe have been supporters of NJTL for eighteen years. Both Sheryl and Joe learned from their parents the importance of being active members of the community, as well as supporters of non-profit organizations that strive to make life better for those in need. In addition to NJTL, the Punia family have been long time supporters of SERV, Greenwood House, Princeton Medical Center, The Hun School of Princeton, Princeton Day School and other charities. These values are proudly carried on by their children, Elyse, Andrew, Charlie and Travis.

Top L-R: Andrew (son-in-law), Elyse (daughter), Charlie (son), Travis (son-in-law), Sheryl, Joseph
Bottom L-R: Jamie & Sebastian (grandsons)

Premier Sponsors

Albert & Ellen Stark

Innovator Sponsors

Benefactor Sponsors

Gold Sponsors

Clare & Bill Bohnett
Muriel & Bill Primm

Silver Sponsors

Bronze Sponsors

Honorary Co-Chairs 

Ginny Mason 

Albert Stark 

Event Chair  

Julia Benedict 

Staff

Chris Liverman

Suzanne Kardos

Brielle Gist

Marketing Coordinator

Donna DeLucia

Committee

Jim Cryan

Paul Decker

Amy Decker

Michelle Emerson

Sonya Geisel Hunt

Jack Halperin

Don Hofmann

Joyce Hofmann

Willa Inlender

Andrew Lieu

Ann LoPrinzi

Alan Meinster

Dianne Newman

Nancy Plum

Joe Punia

Sheryl Punia

Ron Rose

Barry Szaferman

Cheryl Taylor

Marc Vecchiolla

Charlie Villano

Kathleen Whyte

Karen Wilkinson

Lesley Wishnick

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