Funk-Zitiello Foundation hosts second annual Champions for Hope Gala at TPC Sawgrass


The Funk-Zitiello Foundation held its second annual Champions for Hope Gala on Friday, June 15 at TPC Sawgrass.

The event, emceed by WTLV-TV's Curtis Dvorak, featured dinner, a silent and live auction and a private concert by the Chris Thomas Band. The gala benefited the JT Townsend Foundation, which helps Florida's First Coast children and adults with disabilities by providing adaptive equipment and resources to improve their lives. Champions for Hope also raised funds for a grant to support pancreatic cancer research at Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus.

Judi Zitiello, the chairwoman for the Champions for Hope event and a four-year pancreas cancer survivor, said the gala will make a significant impact for the second consecutive year.

"We hope to do even more this year," Zitiello said. "We actually made $550,000 at the event itself last year and then the rest of the money came from an anonymous donor."

Zitiello said that helping to fund pancreas cancer research at Mayo Clinic is pivotal because the disease is so deadly.

"It's really important with pancreas cancer to get that early detection because it generally presents when it's too late," she said. "It's metastasized to other organs by that point and they can't really do anything about it."

Live auction items included a 2018 Tim Tebow Golf Classic pin flag, a Cowford Chophouse gift card, an African safari package for two, a Jacksonville Jaguars signed football, an Ancient City Brewing tour and tasting for 10 voucher, a wine package, a Toby Keith autographed guitar and more.

For more information on the JT Townsend Foundation, visit