Bags & Brews benefits Northeast Florida autism community in big way

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The HEAL Foundation’s board of young professionals, TEAM (Together Everyone Achieves More) HEAL, hosted a cornhole tournament on Sept. 29 at Intuition Ale Works in Jacksonville that raised nearly $20,000 for the foundation’s efforts.

Entitled the Bags & Brews Cornhole Shootout, the tournament included 32 teams that, in addition to competing, enjoyed beers and snacks from the local craft brewery. Presented by Capital Markets Cooperative and emceed by Action News Jax First Alert Meteorologist Garrett Bedenbaugh, the event served as the first fundraiser for TEAM HEAL. The relatively new board of young professionals is comprised of Blake Griffis, Josh Rotta, Case Walther, Kane Sears, Neily Braren and Haley Weed. 

“It’s nice to get the millennials, the young blood shouldering this generation of kids with autism,” Heal Foundation Co-founder Leslie Weed said. “They’re spreading awareness, hope, fundraising for our foundation.”

The HEAL Foundation has been serving Northeast Florida’s autism community since 2004. Leslie and Bobby Weed, of Bobby Weed Golf Design, were inspired to establish the organization after raising their daughter, Lanier, who is non-verbal and profoundly affected by autism. She was 8 years old when the organization started. She’s now 20. 

Based in Ponte Vedra Beach, the nonprofit has awarded nearly $2 million in grants since 2007, providing summer camps, sports leagues and support groups; educational enhancements and iPads for Exceptional Student Education (ESE) classrooms; educational seminars for parents, teachers and therapists; year-round recreational and social events for families; and service dogs. According to Leslie Weed, the HEAL Foundation helped fund 15 camps in summer 2018 supporting 350 individuals with autism. In total, she said the Foundation has helped provide 350 iPads to ESE classrooms. 

The funds from the Bags and Brews event will help to support the organization’s next initiative of building five special needs parks in five local counties, including Baker, Clay, Nassau, St. Johns and Duval. The HEAL Foundation hopes to hold a ribbon cutting for the project in 2020. Funds will also be used to continue funding grants to local organizations, programs, camps and schools serving those with autism in Northeast Florida.

“The foundation continues to grow,” Bobby Weed said. “More people recognize us as the go-to foundation that can assist these families and children and young adults. It’s very gratifying to see the support that we get and have at not only this event, but all of our other events and our summer camps that we fund.”

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