Eleven-year-old Jacob Lopez just finished his clay art at THE PLAYERS’ Stadium Village when his step-father, Ben Miller, asked to take a photo with him for the paper.
“Were my eyes blinking?” Lopez asked after the shot was taken.
“You look gorgeous,” a woman responded
“Well, I’m always gorgeous,” Lopez replied jokingly.
Jacob Lopez was paralyzed from the waist down about four years ago after a car accident, but that didn’t stop his wit or creativity at “These Kids Can Safari,” an event coordinated by the PGA TOUR Wives Association, THE PLAYERS and the Jim & Tabitha Furyk Foundation on Tuesday, March 12.
Presented by TIAA Bank, the event hosted children and families from Community PedsCare and Wolfson Children’s Hospital and was intended to serve as a distraction for the kids, many of whom are dealing with life-limiting or life-threatening injuries and diseases. The Jacksonville Zoo was onsite with various animals, as well as the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). Tabitha Furyk, wife of PGA TOUR player Jim Furyk, served as the chairperson of the 11th annual event.
“We’re just tickled to have such a great turnout and have Jaxson de Ville here for photo opportunities,” Tabitha Furyk said. “The Jacksonville Zoo also provided a lot of characters here for the kids to interact with, so it’s really nice.”
Lopez said one of his favorite parts of the event was having the chance to meet some of his favorite golfers, while his step-father’s favorite was the fact that these golfers came out just to meet kids like Lopez. Jim Furyk was one of the PGA TOUR players who stopped by the Stadium Village for the event.
“Every year, we try and do something unique for these kids,” Tabitha Furyk said. “Our foundation this year is doing a little bit of a support towards animals and partnering with the Jacksonville Humane Society, and I think that just sort of kicked off the idea of how fun it would be for these kids to interact with the zoo animals and just have a wild safari here.”
This was the third “These Kids Can Play” event Lopez attended, according to his step-father.
“Jacob loves animals anyways, so the fact that this is safari-themed, he’s had his chance to put his hands on a couple animals he might not have otherwise seen or touched — he’s having a good time with that,” Miller said.
The painting and tie-dye stations were also popular areas at the event. These mini Picassos created colorful and vibrant art pieces and even had some zoo animals join in.
“The kids love the painting area,” said Rachel Noble, PGA TOUR communications coordinator. “They’re really enjoying that. I’ve seen a lot of rainbows over there. The turtle was painting as well. They painted the turtle’s feet and it just walked across the paper.”
During the final moments of the event, both THE PLAYERS Championship and TIAA Bank each donated checks of $30,000 dollars to Community PedsCare.
“I think it’s very difficult for these families to travel with these kids because their conditions are life-limiting or life-threatening, so to be able to come out is really special for them,” Tabitha Furyk said. “It kind of shows the character of the PGA TOUR, the fact that those players are so sensitive to children with disabilities and make an effort to make them feel special.”
Four years ago, Jacob Lopez was left with limited mobility. Here at “These Kids Can Safari,” there’s no limit to what Jacob can do.
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