Thousands gather at Jacksonville Zoo in support of HEAL Foundation


The cause of the Ponte Vedra Beach-based HEAL (Helping Enrich Autistic Lives) Foundation brought local families out to the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens on April 29 for the HEAL Autism Walk at the Zoo.

Proceeds of the event benefited the foundation’s efforts to support individuals with autism spectrum disorder through funding grants to local schools, programs, camps and educators.

The HEAL Autism Walk at the Zoo was a great success,” said Jason Gurka, executive director of the HEAL Foundation. “(There were) over 2,000 participants, 25 vendors at the HEAL after party, and over $50,000 was raised.”

Hosted by Jordan Price and DJ Vic Micolucci, the after party included music, a bounce house, face painting and a rock climbing wall.

Through fundraising events like the Walk at the Zoo and donations of private and corporate donors, HEAL has contributed more than $2 million in grants to local autism-related camps, support groups, seminars, organizations and schools. HEAL’s latest initiative, iHEAL - iPads Helping Enrich Autistic Lives, donates iPads to special needs classrooms to enhance communication for nonverbal students. To date, more than 350 iPads have been distributed to local classrooms, and last year’s walk attracted 2,000 participants and raised more than $70,000.

For more information about the HEAL Foundation, visit