Charles Jantz, a resident of Deercreek Country Club, is the founder and volunteer chairman of the RITA Foundation, an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization that raises money for local breast cancer programs. The organization’s next event, the SenioRitas women’s 40+ doubles tennis tournament, is Oct. 19-21 at Sawgrass Country Club in Ponte Vedra Beach.
Can you please tell us briefly about your background?
I was raised in Cleveland and graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1961. I worked as a food services broker, forming and owning Food Service Marketing, Inc. until I sold it in 1993 and retired to Jacksonville. Coming to a new city absolutely knowing no one, I met friends through playing tennis and getting every free job in the Deercreek community. I was president of the Deercreek Homeowners Association twice, a member of the Board of Governors for the Deercreek Country Club for eight years and the chairman of the Deercreek Tennis Committee for five years.
What’s the story of the RITA Foundation?
As tennis chairman, Deercreek wanted to have an event, and I suggested a women's tournament, which they liked. Then, I picked breast cancer as the charity, as it runs in my wife's family. I made up the name RITA (Research Is The Answer), and our first event was in 1997. Over the next 10 years, I added two 5K walk/run events called Caring And Sharing Hope (CASH), a black tie gala, a Lexus golf tournament and another tennis event called SenioRITAs at Sawgrass Country Club. We additionally have the MixedRITA doubles tennis tournament benefiting prostate and breast cancer research, also held at Sawgrass.
What has been the impact of the organization?
Our two 5Ks were open to all nonprofits as a way for them to raise money and over 40 participated. And some still do under the name, The Human Race, with the Hands on Jacksonville nonprofit. We have donated over $1.5 million to the Breast Health Department at UF Health, primarily through the Lexus Golf event. We have also donated over $1 million to Baptist Health, including Baptist Cancer Institute, Baptist Nassau, Baptist South and Baptist Beaches, and over $1 million to the Mayo Clinic. To this day, we remain an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) nonprofit with no salaries or overhead costs. We continue to donate 100 percent of the net proceeds from three events with all money remaining in the Jacksonville area. Our grants have been used to purchase equipment (we purchased Mayo's first digital mammography machine) fund seminars, provide compression garments for Lymphedema patients, conduct basic cancer research (Dr. Al Copland's lab at Mayo) and clinical trials and provide free mammograms for the under-served. Additionally, we have funded breast cancer support groups such as Women's Center, One Women's Place and Pink Sisters.
What do you enjoy most about living in the area?
Probably the people. We picked the area because we wanted to get away from the cold winters in Cleveland, but we did want a change in season and we do have that here. We like the fact that we have excellent healthcare. We have all the major things that you might want to do — the recreation, the outdoor living, the symphony, the theatre … all the things that a big, big city would have with a small-city feel.