Fred Funk & Tommy Zitiello Launch 3rd Annual Champions For Hope Gala & Golf Classic

Successful Event Funds Pancreas Cancer Research & Helps the First Coast Disabled Community

June 17, 2019– Ponte Vedra Beach, FL – The Funk-Zitiello Foundation hosted the 3rd annual

Champions for Hope Gala & Celebrity Golf Classic at TPC Sawgrass, home of The PLAYERS, on June 7-8, 2019.

The charity gala and golf tournament, which raised more than $700,000 will benefit two important causes in our Northeast Florida community–a grant to fund important pancreas cancer research through Mayo Clinic and support for adults and children living with disabilities on the First Coast through The JT Townsend Foundation. The weekend event was presented by Title Partner Ally Financial® and sponsored by Swisher International, First Coast News, AutoNation, PGA TOUR, Celgene, Montoya & Associates, CDZ Sales, Florida Blue, IPSEN, Team 1, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, Kash Krisnarao plus several other organizations and individual sponsors across the Nation.

Funk-Zitiello Foundation’s Managing Director, Judi Zitiello, is a five-year pancreatic cancer survivor and this event is truly a personal journey for her. “This year we wanted to continue raising awareness for the tremendous needs of these two important causes. Thank you to all of the partners for their incredible support this year and for helping us provide hope to those who need it most. What we are doing together is truly changing lives and saving lives,” said Judi Zitiello.

The weekend kicked off with a breakfast and program at Mayo Clinic, featuring a team of Mayo doctors, researchers and clinicians. In attendance were Funk-Zitiello Foundation and JT Townsend Board Members, Champions for Hope Golf Sponsors and pancreas cancer survivors and families. The doctors from Mayo shared promising advancements in their research to develop new treatments and tools for non-invasive, early detection of Pancreas Cancer. Proceeds from Champions for Hope are fueling this progress.

“We’re bringing new tools, such as artificial intelligence, to pancreas cancer research to find the early warning signs of the disease and change the way we treat it,” said Dr. Michael Wallace, M.D., MPH, gastroenterologist and co-director, Pancreatic Cancer Discovery and Translation Team, Mayo Clinic. “We have a lot of reason to be optimistic about the future and that’s why the funding from Champions for Hope is so important,” added Dr. Wallace.”

“In addition to improving early diagnosis, we need to find a way to break pancreas cancer’s resistance to therapies and our body’s immune system,” said Dr. Kabir Mody, a consultant in hematology and oncology and assistant professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic. “We’re making exciting progress on that front, as well, and we’re grateful to have the continued support of Champions for Hope and everyone who supports the tournament,” added Dr. Mody.

For Fred Funk, one of the Co-Founders of Champions for Hope, this event was personal. “Our third annual event was a huge success working alongside Co-Founder and friend Tommy Zitiello and the Champions for Hope event team. In 2019, our Title Partner Ally Financial® helped to elevate the event beyond our greatest expectations with the support and team of more than 80 volunteers. I am honored to be a part of this Foundation to continue to help others in our Northeast Florida community,” said Funk.The Champions for Hope weekend included a Friday evening Gala, hosted at TPC Sawgrass. A dinner, silent and live auction, and performance by The RiverTown Band made for the perfect evening. Over 250 guests attended the Gala, and more than a dozen local celebrities shared in both the gala and golf tournament. Celebrity guests included Len Mattiace, Curtis Dvorak Josh Lambo, Bryan Barker, Jeff Klauk, Bob Dickson, Todd Philcox, Tom McManus, Adam Podlash and many more.

The JT Townsend Gospel Choir made for an uplifting start to the morning at the famed TPC Stadium course. Local food and beverage partners and vendors were featured on every hole, with golf challenges incorporated throughout the day. Curtis Dvorak spent the entire day at The Stadium Course legendary “Island Green” Hole 17, greeting each foursome that came through with his big smile and a friendly challenge to beat his shot at the green and had his first-ever, hole-in-one (from his knees) on the famous 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass!

To make the day complete, Ponte Vedra’s John Craig Clothier presented Champions for Hope Purple Jackets to the Florida Blue and CDZ Sales teams who tied to win the tournament.


Funk-Zitiello Foundation

The Funk-Zitiello Foundation was launched in 2016 by 2005 PLAYERS Champion, Fred Funk and local businessman Tommy Zitiello. The mission of the foundation is to help the community by taking the challenges of individuals and turning them into initiatives that can provide hope and funding to those dealing with extraordinary obstacles. The 3rd year event supported two local causes: the JT Townsend Foundation to help families living with disabilities and a grant to fund pancreatic cancer research through Mayo Clinic. To date,   JT Townsend Foundation has helped over 450 families with more than $825,000 in adaptive equipment/assistance.



For more information and media inquiries:  Pauline Gerry, AZMARK, Inc.                 904-728-4722.


To donate: visit or mail check to:

Funk-Zitiello Foundation, 830 N. Florida A1A, Suite 13 #187, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 32082 (write Champions for Hope) in the memo section.


Text to Pledge Today: 904.530.2331


To get involved or learn more: visit or


The Legacy Lives On.

The Episcopal School Awards its JT Townsend Award.

The Episcopal School of Jacksonville has always been an important part of the JT Townsend Foundation. Throughout our journey, they’ve always been extremely supportive. As the years’ pass, the foundation has been able to accomplish extraordinary things including extending help to over 400 families with the help of many along the way. As the foundation grows we felt, it’s important that JTs legacy lives on at Episcopal. After having a conversation with some of the individuals on campus, we were pleasantly surprised and humbled.

Every year Episcopal holds its annual Senior Athletic banquet at the end of the year, honoring the seniors and giving recognition to outstanding students in the form of an award ceremony. The most prestigious award at this ceremony is the JT Townsend award, given to a student-athlete that shows outstanding qualities on the field, in the classroom and in everyday life. Each student that receives this honor is added to a plaque in the Buck Student Center on display next to JT’s football jerseys. The Townsend family is part of this ceremony every year and couldn’t be happier that his legacy is preserved in such an amazing way every year.


It Takes A Village To Support A Family

JT Townsend Foundation Steps In To Provide Adaptive Equipment To Family In Need

May 7, 2018 – Ponte Vedra Beach, FL – A mother’s fight to support her handicapped son was an all too familiar story to Carmen Townsend, mother of JT Townsend and organizer for the JT Townsend Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to helping families with disabilities on the First Coast. Carmen knew she wanted to change this story’s ending for the better.

An HOLA News article, and subsequent TV report, chronicled the life of Israel Quinones Medina, a 22 year old man diagnosed with muscular dystrophy and hydrocephalus at birth and Zayda Medina, his mother, and her desperate fight to get medical equipment and support from Medicaid. Israel had these severe health problems from birth due to complications of a car accident his mother had while pregnant with him. After being diagnosed with cancer, Zayda moved to Jacksonville 4 years ago with her son to live with a family member who offered to help with the care of her son. Shortly thereafter, the family member moved and Zayda was left handling things on her own. With her son being over 18 years old, Zayda found out that many local government service agencies do not offer services for people over 18 years old. Zayda was able to secure an air mattress bed for her son through Medicaid, but no support services. And when the bed broke down and she was unable to fix it, Zayda found out that Medicaid would not supply a new one until 5 years had passed.

Carmen, whose own son, JT, had been paralyzed while playing in an Episcopal High School Football, wanted to make a difference in this family’s life. Together with her friend and colleague, Judith Zitiello of Champions For Hope, they reached out to the TV station that covered Israel’s story. The station connected them with HOLA News’ Norma Martinez, helping them meet with the family and helping them translate.

On March 19th, Carmen, Norma from HOLA News and John Kirkland, a licensed physical therapist, arrived at the Medina home to evaluate Israel. After examination, it was determined Israel had been misdiagnosed previously, which had led to denial of Medicaid services.

Things quickly began to change for the Medina family. With help from the JT Townsend Foundation, John Kirkland and Fletcher Medical, the proper coding was made for Israel’s case, and a new wheelchair was secured for him. In addition, JT Townsend Foundation will be providing Israel with a new gel mattress, to prevent bedsores, and a shower chair. Both items will be delivered to Israel and his family on Monday, May 7.

Judith Zitiello, who is the former Director of the JT Townsend Foundation noted,          “JT Townsend’s dream was to provide assistance when families have no means of obtaining the things they need to keep their loved one safe and engaged with the entire family. He would have loved to have met Israel and his mother. We are thankful we heard their story and were able to help.”

A celebrity golf tournament, Champions For Hope, benefitting the JT Townsend Foundation and Pancreatic Cancer Research, will take place June 15-16, 2018 at    TPC Sawgrass. To DONATE, text to pledge at 904-530-2331.

Celebration Of JT Townsend Day Set For February 7, 2018 At Everbank Stadium

Remembrance and Events


February 6, 2018 – PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL – Friends and family of JT Townsend will gather on February 7, 2018, to celebrate the third annual JT Townsend Day in the City of Jacksonville. A balloon release, an outline of the JT Townsend Foundation vision for 2018, a check presentation and more are planned for the event, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. at Everbank Field’s Jaguar Statue.

JT Townsend made an incredible impact on the Jacksonville community. Following a spinal cord injury in 2004,

JT founded the JT Townsend Foundation (JTTF) to help families living with disabilities on the First Coast. In an effort to honor him, even in his absence, February 7th was forever proclaimed “JT Townsend Day” by Mayor Alvin Brown, in the city of Jacksonville in 2015 (JT was born on February 7, 1987).

Since it’s creation, the JT Townsend Foundation has raised over $628,450 in funds to assist more than 290 First Coast families.

“It is so fitting this event is being held at Everbank Stadium,” says Judith Zitiello, JTTF Emeritus Board Chair. “JT’s love of the Jacksonville Jaguars ran deep and he would have been thrilled for the team’s success this year. With an open invitation to team practice, his close relationship with many on the team, it was his dream to work for the Jaguars. Unfortunately, JT suddenly passed just before he was notified by the Jaguars that he landed his dream job.”

The month of February also kicks off the continued efforts of friends in the community to continue to raise funds for the JT Townsend Endowed Scholarship at the University of North Florida, in memory of JT who was a UNF alumnus, who earned his degree in sport management in the spring of 2013. The scholarship will be awarded to undergraduate sport management majors.

As part of the February 7 event, long-time JTTF supporter Bryce Clark, owner of SERVPRO Jacksonville South & Arlington, will present a check for $12,500, money that was raised through the 7th Annual SERPVRO Jacksonville South & Arlington Customer Appreciation Golf Tournament, held Oct. 20, 2017.

About The JT Townsend Foundation:

The JTTF is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to better the lives of children and adults with disabilities on the First Coast by providing financial assistance, adaptive equipment, and research funding. The opportunity to provide hope to those living with disabilities was the driving force behind JT Townsend, and with the help of his friends such as Maurice Jones Drew, Professional PGA golfer and JTTF Emeritus Board Member Fred Funk, his legacy continues on. For more information on the JTTF, visit

For more information, contact:Pauline Gerry: Board Member, JT Townsend Foundation & Principal, AZMARK, Inc.904-728-4722;

Champions for Hope Benefits JT Townsend Foundation and Pancreatic Research Funding for Mayo Clinic


Inaugural Champions for Hope Gala & Golf Classic raises over $880K for Northeast Florida Charities


July 5, 2017 – Ponte Vedra, Fla. – The Funk-Zitiello Foundation launched the first annual Champions for Hope Gala & Golf Classic at TPC Sawgrass, home of THE PLAYERS, on June 16 and 17.  The charity gala and golf tournament, which raised $881,000, will benefit two important causes in our Northeast Florida community– The JT Townsend Foundation and a grant to fund important pancreatic cancer research through the Mayo Clinic. The weekend event was sponsored by the PGA TOUR, First Coast News, plus many other organizations across the First Coast.

JT Townsend board chair Judi Zitiello is a three-year pancreatic cancer survivor and this event is truly a personal journey for her.

“I truly believe God gave me this time to make a difference. I choose to keep going in honor of all the champions who are no longer with us and all those in the fight of their lives. Thank you for partnering with us and giving hope to those who need it most,” said Zitiello.

The weekend kicked off on Friday afternoon with a roundtable discussion at Mayo Clinic, featuring a team of doctors, researchers and clinicians at Mayo Clinic, the Champions For Hope Golf Event Team, and JT Townsend Foundation Board of Directors.

A team of doctors from Mayo discussed exciting and promising projects to support early detection of pancreatic cancer. Dr. Horacio Asbun, Chair of General Surgery, Mayo Clinic helped to lead the discussion and commented, “It is time to strongly promote public awareness about this disease in order to be able to raise funds for research, and make progress equivalent to the progress made for other types of cancers. The proceeds raised from the Champions for Hope weekend will be critical in the advancement of research towards early detection of pancreatic cancer,” added Dr. Asbun.

The Champions for Hope weekend included a Friday evening Gala, hosted at TPC Sawgrass. A dinner silent and live auction, and performance by the Chris Thomas Band made for the perfect evening. Over two hundred guests attended the Gala, and more than a dozen local celebrities attended over the weekend, including 2005 PLAYERS champion Fred Funk, Dave Caldwell, Doug Marrone, Blake Bortles, Mark Brunell, Curtis Dvorak, Mike Goodes, Jeff Klauk, Blaine McCallister, Dan Nevins and many more.

For co-host Funk, this event was personal. “Being part of this day was magical; working side by side with long time friend, Tommy Zitiello, their event team of more than 80 volunteers was incredible. To top the event off by hitting a hole in one on the island 17 hole, will forever be a special memory to last a lifetime. I am honored to be a part of this event and to help others in our Northeast Florida community,” said Funk.

Funk spent the entire day on the Stadium course’s famed 17th hole, greeting each foursome that came through with a hearty handshake and a friendly challenge to beat his shot at the green. He just happened to hit his first-ever ace on the island green as Tommy Zitiello’s group came to the hole.

To make the day complete, Ponte Vedra’s John Craig Clothier presented the first-ever Champions for Hope purple jackets to the winning foursome, which included guests from First Coast News & SERVPRO Jacksonville South/Arlington.

2017 Chip In For Youth

From now until Friday, April 28th, use the code LIVELIKEJT when purchasing your tickets for TPC through TicketMaster. Every time the code is used, $25 will be donated back to the JT Townsend Foundation.

Click Here for More Information


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