June Rogers with her River Hills tennis teammates at lunch. (Photo courtesy of the JRFFCCR.)

June Rogers was an inspiration to so many people throughout her life, and especially during her bout with stage four colon cancer. She was diagnosed with the disease four years ago and underwent chemotherapy throughout the rest of her life. 

While Rogers lost her battle with colon cancer in September, her legacy will live on through the June Rogers Foundation for Colon Cancer Research (JRFFCCR), which was started by seven of her friends in her honor. The JRFFCCR is partnering with Moffitt Cancer Center to be the recipient of the proceeds from the inaugural June Rogers Memorial Tennis Tournament that will take place from Saturday to Sunday, April 23-24. The goal is to raise a minimum of $100,000 to start the fund. All proceeds from the annual tournament will be directed entirely to this fund in support of colorectal cancer research projects selected by the JRFFCCR.

In 1974, 9-year-old Rogers emigrated with her family from Thailand to the United States, where she taught herself English. She graduated from East Bay High School, where she played on the tennis team. She later graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor of Science degree from the College of Business Administration. 

Rogers was a pillar of her community. She was a manager with the Outback Restaurant Group in both Florida and Georgia. Many people knew her from her restaurant, Simply Thai, in Brandon that she and her husband, Brian Smith, started in 1998 and owned for 11 years. The restaurant flourished until it was sold in 2010.

Rogers was an excellent tennis player who played at tennis clubs all across the Tampa area but called River Hills Country Club home. She battled on the court while she battled for her life, winning matches while she received chemotherapy treatment. She helped lead her team to United States Tennis Association (USTA) Nationals, but sadly passed away before she was able to achieve her dream of playing at the event. Her friends Melanie Skinner and Allison Townsend remarked that Rogers never complained about her situation and always had a smile on her face, even while not feeling well. She had a great sense of humor and insisted that they go out to lunch after her matches.

“She was a true friend,” said Townsend. “There are not a lot of people that you can call your true friend. You could count on her to be honest, straightforward—if you needed anything, she was there for you. She made me realize that you can be on this earth and be graceful and true and hardworking and determined, even with the odds that she faced. She fought until the end.”

Rogers never gave up, even when doctors told her that there was nothing further that they could do to help her. She wanted to do everything possible to keep fighting, receiving chemo until her body could not handle it anymore. She even wanted to pursue any experimental treatment that was available during her final months.

“I miss her every single day,” said Skinner. “She was one of the most generous people that I’ve ever met. She was the kind of person that everybody should strive to be like.”

The fund will be established to solely support the gastrointestinal oncology program at Moffitt, with oversight provided by Program Chair Dr. Jason Fleming. The current project selected by the JRFFCCR is “Harnessing the Immune System in the Fight Against Colorectal Cancer.” 

Registration for the women’s tournament began on February 1. Sponsorships are still available. It takes place from April 23-24 at the River Hills Country Club in Valrico. The event is open to the public, with food and drink available.

Several items will be auctioned off, including a five-day trip to Scotland to stay in a castle and play golf, and two vintage Napa Valley wines. Baskets will be raffled off as well. There will be vendors selling athletic gear, and colon cancer researchers will be on hand in booths to answer questions about colorectal health. All proceeds will go to the research program and donations (http://tinyurl.com/jrmoffitt) are 100 percent tax deductible.

For more information about registration, tournament sponsorship opportunities and donations, visit https://tinyurl.com/jrffccr.

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Nick Nahas
Nick Nahas has written for the Osprey Observer since 2016. He has lived in the Valrico area since 2002 and has his bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the University of South Florida. He is dedicated to covering sports in Hillsborough County at every level.