Fred Funk, Tommy Zitiello to host second annual Champions for Hope Gala and Golf Classic


The Funk-Zitiello Foundation is holding the second annual Champions for Hope Gala and Golf Classic at TPC Sawgrass this weekend, June 15 and 16. 

The event — presented by Ally and sponsored by Swisher, the PGA Tour, AutoNation, Celgene, Florida Blue, First Coast News and several other partners — will kick off on Friday evening with a gala emceed by WTLV-TV’s Curtis Dvorak. The gala will include dinner, a silent and live auction and a private concert by the Chris Thomas Band at TPC Sawgrass. 

Guests will tee off Saturday morning at THE PLAYERS Stadium Course. Ponte Vedra’s John Craig Clothier will present the “Champions for Hope Purple Jackets” to the winning foursome. Celebrities guests include Fred Funk, Taylor Funk, Len Mattiace, Billy Kratzert, Curtis Dvorak, Jeff Klauk, Congressman Ron DeSantis, Dan Nevins, Jeff Klauk, Josh Lambo, Bryan Barker and many more.

The charity gala and golf tournament will benefit the JT Townsend Foundation and a grant to fund pancreatic cancer research at Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus. The JT Townsend Foundation continues to focus its efforts on helping children and adults living with disabilities receive adaptive equipment and resources to improve their lives. Since its inception, the JT Townsend Foundation has helped 366 First Coast families with $675,000 in assistance and adaptive equipment.

According to the Funk-Zitiello Foundation, Mayo Clinic researchers in Florida have developed new techniques for early detection of pancreatic cancer, which is the third-leading cause of cancer related death in the United States. The disease is often diagnosed in patients in later stages when it has spread to other parts of the body and is much more difficult to treat. Funds from the Champions for Hope 2017 Golf Classic directly addressed this challenge, supporting a Mayo Clinic team that is performing research to improve early detection.

For Funk-Zitiello Foundation Managing Director Judi Zitiello, who is a four-year pancreas cancer survivor, this is a personal experience.

“This year we focused on awareness,” she said. “I wanted everyone to know the symptoms and that pancreas cancer is misdiagnosed 31 percent of the time based on a 2016 report. What typically was a cancer of 60-plus men and women is now striking all ages and genders and is expected to be the No. 2 cancer killer by 2020. This is why early detection is critical. With our help, Mayo is on the hunt for a minimally invasive test.”