One of Us: Deb Chapin

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Deb Chapin is a Ponte Vedra resident, member of the St. Johns County Recreation Advisory Board, founder of the PV Greenway Alliance and passionate supporter of cancer research and treatment.

Can you please briefly tell us about your background?

I grew up in New Canaan, Connecticut, a great place to live and near New York City. I come from a large family with seven siblings, many of whom live nearby. My father, Jim Allegro, and step-mom, Lesley, live in St. Augustine. He was a former Marine and corporate businessman who became an executive board member of ESPN in its early years and helped to build the company and grow its operations. He helped the team at ESPN establish the V Foundation for Cancer Research, and my younger sister is now on the board and founded the Wine Celebration raising over $108 million for research to date. Our mother was lost to cancer and then a few years ago, we lost our oldest son to brain cancer, which has resulted in a few of my passionate endeavors.

I’ve been coming to St. Augustine since 1982 when we had a beach condo and my sister was studying at Flagler. My husband and I moved here permanently 25 years ago with young children, and it was a great place to raise a family. I worked primarily in business development for a private company for several years and I also had a small equestrian center here in Ponte Vedra. A few years ago, I joined the St. Johns County Recreation Advisory Board (RAB) to advocate for sports & recreation. My husband, Sandy, and son, Kevin, have a successful carpentry and remodeling business and my daughter, Becca, lives in Winter Park, Florida.

What’s the story of the Jamie Chapin Classic Golf Tournament?

The event relaunched a few years ago when the new University of Florida (UF) lacrosse coach, Garrett Hanrahan, decided to select a cause for the team and became aware of Jamie and his legacy. Jamie, my son, was a UF grad who had been captain of the lacrosse team at UF and at Nease High School. He helped launch lacrosse locally, but he loved all sports — especially ice hockey. He was diagnosed with a Glioblastoma/Astrocytoma,  a deadly brain cancer, after graduating from UF. Coach Hanrahan, along with Jamie’s friends, inspired us to pick up where we left off and we began the annual golf event again.   

We discovered the newly formed Immunotherapy Research Team at UF directed by Dr. Duane Mitchell. So, together we’re working to host a special event to create awareness and help fund the research initiative. Learn more about Dr. Mitchell's work here: https://neurosurgery.ufl.edu/research/laboratories/UFBTIP-lab/

When is the third annual event? What makes this year’s event different?

We’re hosting an evening event on Friday, May 17, with a presentation from Dr. Mitchell to raise awareness about UF and the ReMission Alliance — a collaboration of 12 top research centers in the United States and Canada under the direction of UF, including Duke, MD Anderson, Dana-Farber, UCSF and others.  With the help of AI (artificial intelligence), they are going to change the trajectory of this devastating disease. Dr. Mitchell scored among the top at the recent Biden Cancer Summit and announced the Alliance in February 2019. They are looking to raise $100 million to fast-track the trials and treatments. 

It’s about time there is a collaboration of sharing the tissue and the data! This is about the future of cancer treatment. We hope to raise funds and to create alignment of private entities and advocates that have the same goal — to support research. We can’t turn our backs on this; quitting is not an option because cancer isn’t going anywhere.   

How can people help?

May 17 Dinner Gala

We have an amazing community of active, successful and generous people.  We are seeking sponsors and participants. Info is available at www.CaribbeanMoonlightGala.com. The dinner event will host Dr. Mitchell from UF and hear about the new Alliance and its cutting-edge discoveries.

May 18 Golf Classic

The golf is a fun day hosted by UF Men’s Lacrosse at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club Lagoon Course and sponsors will be hosted at the hospitality tent along the 11th Fairway.  Registration is available at www.JamieChapinClassic.org.

Donations can be made to UF Foundation by contacting Jessica Maier via email at Jmai0001@shands.ufl.edu or by phone at (352) 265-7237

On another note, we understand you’ve worked to preserve greenspace in Ponte Vedra. How did you start PV Greenway Alliance Incorporated?

A team of grassroots advocates and I started on a mission to create some safe recreational, destination-based trails in Ponte Vedra and preserve some greenspace. It is now PVGA — a 501c3. We’ve identified areas that could possibly be used for a multi-use greenway. Over the last few years, much that had remained has been purchased and developed. We did a lot of outreach and inspired other groups to begin similar initiatives.  We were accepted for assistance from RTCA National Park Services in 2016.

Today, PVGA is on the brink of our phase 1, which includes a small wharf in Palm Valley. From there, we will endeavor to design a multi-use path to Sawgrass Village and eventually connect to the schools.  (We have five schools and a YMCA within two miles.) Our new Commissioner, Jeremiah Blocker, is helping to establish this as a priority in our area. We have recently been awarded a grant from DEP and UF and that will help with the cost of the wharf decking. A marine contractor is helping to build this to commemorate his family heritage so we’ll hope to break ground soon! Community advocates can support us by liking us on Facebook @ PVGreenway and join our group of advocates. 

Edited by Jon Blauvelt

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