MWYF celebrates ‘Champions for Children’ at gala


Last week, the Malivai Washington Youth Foundation presented its largest annual fundraiser, the Current/Sherman Group of Merrill Lynch Champions for Children Gala at the Florida Blue Conference Center in Jacksonville.

The gala has traditionally raised approximately $200,000 annually to support the programs and services of the MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation (MWYF).

Eighteen MWYF students who have earned scholarships were recognized during the dinner, and guests had the opportunity to participate in several raffles and bid on auction items. 

Alumni members Keanna Bell and Deshawn “Scotty” Brown gave testimonials about the foundation during the dinner. Guests also heard from founder and Ponte Vedra resident MaliVai Washington and featured guest Chris Evert.

“Chris’ first appearance at the Gala was in 1997 and we are so pleased that she has chosen to return to support us at our 19th event,” said MWYF Founder and Ponte Vedra Beach resident MaliVai Washington. “Chis’ work ethic and accomplishments both on and off the court make her a great example for our students.”

During her career, Evert won 18 Grand Slam titles and appeared in either the finals or semifinals in 52 of her 56 Grand Slam appearances. Evert’s career highlights include holding the No. 1 rank in the world for seven years, being the first player to win 1,000 singles matches and having a .904 win average during her 17 year career.

MWYF promotes academic achievement and uses tennis to engage students in an active and fun youth development program. Their flagship program, TnT (Tennis-n-Tutoring), is a comprehensive five-day-per-week after school program which includes tennis lessons, daily homework assistance, and life skills classes to Jacksonville’s most underserved youth. The mission of the MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation is to develop champions in classrooms, on tennis courts and throughout communities. For more information, visit