Former Nease and University of Florida (UF) lacrosse star Jamie Chapin continues to be an inspiration to the Gators’ lacrosse team, and his legacy also lives on in groundbreaking cancer research at UF.
Chapin died of a brain cancer in 2011 at the age of 25. Last year, the UF lacrosse team held the first Jamie Chapin Classic golf tournament to raise money for the UF Brain Cancer Immunotherapy Program. The team hopes to top last year’s success with the second annual event on Saturday, March 17, at the Lagoon Course of the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club
“When we started talking about plans for the second annual event, it made more sense to take it to Jamie’s hometown where so many of the people that made up his personal network still reside,” UF lacrosse coach Garrett Hanrahan said. “It’s also a great golf community and we had access to some great resources, so we decided to make the move this year and anticipate it will remain in Ponte Vedra moving forward.”
Hanrahan, a former UF lacrosse player who took over the Gators’ program in 2016, said his former coach, Ryan Winters, always kept Chapin’s memory alive when Hanrahan played for the Gators. Winters would always tell incoming players about Chapin, a team captain, and the inspiring story stuck with Hanrahan.
“For us to be a small part of that and to be able to support it with our efforts is meaningful, and I think it would be meaningful to anybody because it’s such a worthy cause,” Hanrahan said. “It’s a cause that transcends lacrosse, transcends our team.”
The tournament raised more than $7,400 for the program last year, and Dr. Duane Mitchell, program director of the UF Brain Cancer Immunotherapy Program, said fundraising efforts like the golf tournament are crucial to the program’s success in finding better treatments for brain cancer.
“I certainly couldn’t exaggerate the importance of private support and philanthropic funding like the Jamie Chapin Classic to the work that we do,” Mitchell said. “In fact, within the next one-to-two months, we’ll have four new immunotherapy clinical trial options available here at the UF that came from research from our laboratories. Every one of those, the science that supported those clinical trials, started with private donor funding. We couldn’t pursue that work if we didn’t have funding like what the Jamie Chapin Classic provides.”
Mitchell will also be speaking to attendees at this year’s Jamie Chapin Classic to share what the UF program is doing in the search for better brain cancer treatments.
The doctor said while brain cancer might not be the most common cancer out there, it is among the most deadly, with very a very slim survival rare. The median survival of someone diagnosed with malignant brain cancer is only about 15-20 months from the time of diagnosis, and five-year survival is less than 10 percent.
Mitchell also said research on brain cancer is very important, because in 95 percent of cases, the cause of brain cancer is unknown.
“In the overwhelming majority of cases, we really don’t have any identifiable either heredity or environmental or exposure-risk factors that lead to the development of brain cancer,” he said.
Immunotherapy involves using the patient’s own immune system to attack the cancer and to recognize cancerous cells. The process involves harvesting the patient’s own immune cells and activating them to be more able to recognize cancer cells, expand immune cells to much larger numbers than what the patient has naturally and deliver activated cells back to patient.
Mitchell said one of the biggest benefits to immunotherapy treatment is what is known as immunologic memory, which allows the patient’s immune system to recognize and fight the foreign cells if they reappear. The findings from the program’s research offer “the potential for a treatment that might be able to provide a truly long-term cure and protection against reoccurrence.”
Mitchell said he really hopes to be able to convey two things to attendees at this year’s event.
“One is our sincere appreciation and gratitude for their efforts that they're putting forward to support the Jamie Chapin Classic and what an impact that has on furthering science for children and adults with brain cancer,” he said. “The second is to really give people what I hope will be a very realistic but optimistic outlook in terms of how far the field of cancer immunotherapy has come.”
As for his role in the annual golf tournament, Hanrahan said being able to honor Jamie and the Chapin family, and to assist with a program that aims to save others in Jamie’s situation is what the event is all about.
“[The Chapin family] was sharing Jamie’s story with us and allowing us to make it part of the event, and that’s not something we take lightly,” Hanrahan said. “You want to be a good steward of Jamie’s legacy and his story and to put on an event that is worthy of that story and that cause.”
This year’s event will feature a silent auction, a hospitality tent and refreshments. There will also be a long-drive pro who will play with each foursome at a particular hole, and a chance to win a trip to Pebble Beach. Hanrahan said the tournament will also celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with music, outfits and decorations.
For more information on the Jamie Chapin Classic, go to the 2nd Annual Jamie Chapin Classic event page on Facebook, visit the UF lacrosse page on Facebook, @gatorlacrosse on Twitter or email coach Hanrahan at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also register for the tournament at jcc.golfgenius.com.