Champions For Hope Gala & Golf Classic Raises $650K

Successful Event Funds Pancreatic Cancer Research at Mayo Clinic and

Supports Families Living with Disabilities through JT Townsend Foundation

June 29, 2023– Ponte Vedra Beach, FL – Hundreds came together for the sixth annual Champions for Hope Gala & Celebrity Golf Classic at TPC Sawgrass, home of THE PLAYERS on June 2-3, 2023. The charity gala and golf tournament, which raised more than $650,000, will benefit two important causes in our Northeast Florida community – pancreatic cancer research through Mayo Clinic and support for adults and children living with disabilities on the First Coast through The JT Townsend Foundation (JTTF).

CFH 2023 Media Release

Golf sponsors gathered to play the Stadium Course on Saturday, June 3, and were paired with local celebrities including Jaguars 1st Overall Pick in 96’ Kevin Hardy who said the event was “Nothing short of amazing! From the gala to the golf, the people to the purpose, the Champions for Hope golf event is the best charity event I’ve ever participated in!”

For the attendees of Champions for Hope, the event is about so much more than a solid day of golf. It’s about raising an EPIC amount for charity and having a good time! “It’s the spirit of what the tournament is about, Judi and JT Townsend, that flows through every minute you’re involved that sets it apart. I’ve been fortunate to be involved in many charity tournaments and events. This one is special,” said attendee and sportscaster Sam Kouvaris.

The event weekend kicked off when the Funk-Zitiello Foundation visited Mayo Clinic’s campus in Jacksonville to learn about new advancements in pancreatic cancer research and to present a check for $550,000 to support funding critical research efforts. The Foundation connects regularly with Peter Storz, Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic scientist, and Mayo clinicians who work daily to find an early detection method for pancreatic cancer.

Michael Wallace, M.D., M.P.H., and Dr. Storz are part of a team of 10 physicians and scientists at Mayo who use the foundation’s funds to perform research to develop early detection techniques for pancreatic cancer. “We’re researching new early detection methods to find the early warning signs of the disease and change how we treat pancreatic cancer,” said Dr. Wallace. “Our specific goal is to identify biological and imaging markers that indicate a person has, or soon will develop, pancreatic cancer when it is still at a curable stage,” he added. Champions for Hope has also donated more than $2 million for research at the Judi Zitiello Laboratory in the C.V. and Elsie R. Griffin Building in Jacksonville. 

“Our 2023 annual event was a huge success working alongside a team of more than 80 volunteers. We are grateful to our key sponsors including Jacksonville Jaguars, Team1, Florida Blue, Ally, Shark Coatings, PGA TOUR, and all our partners who contribute to the event to support our two causes. I am honored to be a part of this Foundation to continue to help others in our Northeast Florida community,” said Tommy Zitiello.

To date, Champions for Hope has donated $834,000 to JTTF ensuring over 700 families living with disabilities have their needs met right here in Jacksonville. JTTF provides adaptive equipment and resources to support children and adults. Equipment examples include, wheelchairs, standards, adaptive bikes, cranial helmets, adaptive car seats and more. To learn more visit,

Funk-Zitiello Foundation, Champions for Hope

The Funk-Zitiello Foundation was launched in 2016 by 2005 PLAYERS Champion, Fred Funk and local businessman Tommy Zitiello. The foundation’s mission 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. To learn more visit,


For more information and media inquiries:  

Pauline Gerry,


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.

To get involved or learn more visit or