Many individuals who achieve early success opt for a different path once their fame wanes. This transition often applies to young actors, musicians, and sports stars. Such is the case with tennis luminary Andrea Jaeger.
Early Years of Andrea Jaeger:
Born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago to hardworking parents, Andrea displayed prodigious tennis talent from a tender age, setting her sights on a career in the sport. While still a student at Stevenson High School, she rose to the top of the under-18 age group rankings. At just 15, she became the youngest Wimbledon-seeded player, a record until 1990 when Jennifer Capriati broke it.
Jaeger squared off against some of the era’s top players, defeating Chris Evert in 1982 and Billie Jean King in 1983. Her achievements included 13 U.S. national junior titles, encompassing victories in the 1979 Orange Bowl and 1979 Boca Raton matches.
However, tennis was never her primary passion. During her touring days, she began visiting hospitals and conversing with patients. When a 1985 injury benched her at 19, she embarked on a different journey. Andrea pursued higher education, earning a theology degree. By 1987, her commitment to public service and philanthropy solidified, leading her to join the Anglican Order of Preachers in the Episcopal Church.
A Life Devoted to Giving:
For Andrea Jaeger, tennis became a means to an end rather than the end itself. She channeled her professional tennis earnings into causes she deemed worthy and fulfilling.
Her interactions with ailing patients during tennis tours underscored her desire to dedicate her life to improving the lives of those in need, especially sick children. Andrea aspired to become a leader who could develop programs to support those facing adversity. Consequently, she set out to establish a program committed to enhancing the quality of life and providing long-term care for children afflicted by cancer or other ailments.
The Genesis of the Little Star Foundation:
Nearly 37 years ago, Andrea laid the foundation for the Little Star Foundation. This organization delivers award-winning programs to children, families, and communities, all without charge. It specializes in long-term care for children battling cancer and extends financial assistance alongside other initiatives.
Some of the key programs offered by the Little Star Foundation include:
Educational Scholarships: The Jeff Crawford Educational Scholarship empowers children with cancer by facilitating access to accredited college education.
Sports, Arts, and Equine Therapy Programs: Coping with serious health challenges can force children to mature rapidly, placing immense strain on their families. The Little Star Foundation offers complimentary award-winning sports, arts, and equine therapy programs to enrich these young patients’ lives.
Medical Care, Hospital, and Outreach Support: Families with sick children often struggle to find the best medical care. The Little Star Foundation collaborates with hospitals, medical teams, and emergency responders to secure top-notch treatment and ongoing assistance for the afflicted and their families.
Financial Support: The foundation eases the financial burden for families with sick children, offering assistance with essential living expenses, life-enhancing activities, and even life-saving necessities.
“First Service: Following God’s Calling and Finding Life’s Purpose”:
Two decades ago, Andrea Jaeger authored a book titled “First Service: Following God’s Calling and Finding Life’s Purpose.” The book chronicles Jaeger’s transition from tennis retirement in 1985 to discovering her true calling and higher purpose.
She initiated the nonprofit 501(c)(3) Little Star Foundation to enhance the lives of children grappling with illness, deprivation, mental, physical, and emotional challenges and their families, who navigate each day with unwavering resilience.
The organization has garnered numerous awards and accolades, with Andrea considering it her most significant achievement.