Message from Judi Zitiello
My husband Tom and I met JT and his family in fall 2005, one year after the “incident” on the football field at Episcopal High School that left him paralyzed. Our longtime friends and neighbors, Pro golfer Fred Funk and his wife Sharon wanted us to meet this inspiring young man. After that day our lives were never the same.
Years before, Tom and I had formed a neighborhood fan club “Funk’s Punks” to add some fun to The Players Championship week. Now it was time for our growing group to take on a new purpose. We wanted to help the Funk’s, who had taken care of the big things (locating land purchased by the PGA Tour, a builder, furniture and appliances) to build and fill the house with everything needed for JT and his family to move in with nothing more than a suitcase. So, we went to work.
We called upon every group we had contact with, from Girl Scout groups, youth sports organizations, local restaurants and news anchors to help us challenge the community to fill the house. I registered JT with retailers and created wish lists of small appliances and household items. With the help of local news channels as quickly as I added new items to the list, the community responded.
The Certificate of Occupancy was issued the week between Christmas and New Years. That was the best week ever! Our family and friends went into high gear. We cleaned, we unpacked, we decorated. And finally, the house was presented to JT and the Townsend family. It was our own “Extreme Home” dedication.
The First Coast community has always answered the call to ANY deserving family that needs help. I am proud to be a part of a community that truly understands the blessings that are realized by helping others. That is why we have taken JT’s “incident” full circle and formed The JT Townsend Foundation – “JT GIVES BACK“. JT graduated from UNF May 2013 while successfully running his own foundation. A foundation with a vision to help other local disabled individuals with the things they need to make their lives as comfortable and as full as possible and provide important funding for SCI research. The formation of this non-profit 501(c)3 gives JT the opportunity to show people of the First Coast his deep gratitude while providing others with a hope for as normal a life as possible.
Sadly, our friend, JTTF President JT Townsend, passed away suddenly on June 5th, 2013. We know that JT would want us to continue his good works and keep his legacy alive. So, we have agreed to do just that. We wish to carry it forward and LIVE LIKE JT.
Tom and I are proud to call the Townsend’s our extended family. We hope you will join us in supporting this worthwhile cause by donating or volunteering today!
Judi Zitiello, Fundraising Chair, Board Chair