Tag Archives: JT Townsend Foundation

A second shot…

A second shot…

JT Townsend visits the Parks after Brett’s brush with a robber and point blank gun shot to the abdomen.

It has been five years since I took the call from JT. He had just heard a report on the news. A young Navy man and personal trainer was visiting a client in a Jacksonville apartment complex when he heard a scream from behind the fitness complex and ran to see if he could help. He stepped right into the middle of a robbery in progress. The robber shot him point blank range in the abdomen, a near fatal wound. In a split second, this young husband and father’s entire life changed, and JT knew exactly what that was like.

Brett had gone directly into surgery, after the incident. His wife was told the next six hours were critical. He was placed in a medically induced coma for roughly twenty days and when he awoke, he had lost his right kidney, a portion of his colon and the lower part of his leg. He was now able to receive visitors.

We arranged to visit Brett at UF Shands Hospital, ironically, the same hospital, the same floor and the same nurses who had brought JT Townsend back from a near fatal spinal cord injury that left him a quadriplegic eight years before. It was strange JT admitted, he had not been back to this floor since he left after his initial injury. Like Brett, his family was told making it thru the first night was critical. The nurses would later tell us their minds immediately raced back to that October, night 2004 when young JT was brought in. The nurses doubted either man would survive their injuries.

Brett & Susan Parks

But, something miraculous happened. Both men held on surviving death defying trauma with strong faith in God believing He would help them inch back from seemingly impossible physical limitations. And, He did.

JT Townsend went on to start JT Townsend Foundation with a mission to help children and adults with neurological disabilities with adaptive equipment or financial assistance. Brett started A Second Shot Ministries so he could serve up a portion of inspiration. Brett also has written a book Today, Brett travels around the nation, speaking to churches, businesses and schools about that fateful day and how setting goals and never giving up helped him survive. Brett has also written a book titled “Brett Parks: Miracle Man: A Bullet That Ignited a Purpose-Filled Life”. Both of these champions took seemingly impossible situations and turned them into good.

Given these circumstances what would you do if you were given a second shot?

One year Cancer Free

One year Cancer Free
Tommy, Judi and grandbaby No. 6 - Jude Matthew Garrity, our angel sent from God.

Tommy, Judi and grandbaby No. 6 – Jude Matthew Garrity, our angel sent from God.

Today I celebrate being cancer free for 12 months. Free from Pancreatic Cancer that lived in me for at least 15 years silently consuming my bodily cells and my life. If you receive a diagnosis of PC you have a 6 percent chance of living 5 years. To survive 1 year, you are in the 18%. So, on Friday, we celebrated life.

We are thankful to God for each new day. Tom and I both know the day is a gift. We live it as one trying to make the most out of being with our family and friends and we thank God every day for giving us this time together.

I am reading about survivors of PC who live 12 years, beating the odds. I am encouraged by the way I feel one year post Whipple surgery, chemo and radiation treatment. I think I might be one of those blessed to remain, to not be one of the gloomy statistics. And I wonder what God has in store for me. What task has He got for me to accomplish before it is my time. I pray every day for Him to send me a crystal clear message. When He is ready, I know He will. (His timing not ours.)

Living each day as if it were your last makes us all better people. The world would be a better place if we lived this way. Life is so uncertain. We all must realize this no matter if we are healthy or not. Cherish the moments you spend with your loved ones. Tell your friends what their being in your life means to you. Show someone an act of kindness every day.

Last week was The Players Championship week in Ponte Vedra Beach, one of the best weeks for all of us blessed enough to live here. On Friday evening my husband and I hosted a Celebration of Life party fundraiser benefitting the JT Townsend Foundation, which we began 7 years ago. The response to the invitation was tremendous. It means we can take something so horrific and change it into good. We can take the $55K raised at the party and help local disabled children and adults who cannot afford to buy adaptive equipment that would make their lives easier. What a great week it was.

I guess God had this in the plan, this fundraiser/party/celebration of life. It sure came together easily. He had the perfect people attending that He would have. He gave us the perfect weather and the perfect entertainment and food because it is not OUR plan. It is always His. Thank you Lord.

God is in control and whatever He has planned, Tom and I are good with it.

P.S. I had a lot of Thank you’s to make. I think it was the perfect opportunity. My last and biggest thank you always goes to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Thank you Rachel Winer for running  for me in the PVHS Run for Life race to fight Cancer.

Thank you Rachel Winer for running for me in the PVHS Run for Life race to fight Cancer.



When we started the foundation for J.T. we didn’t realize how deeply it would enrich our lives. We hoped it would be a way to fulfill J.T.’s dream of “paying it forward”, giving back to the community that was inspired to help the Townsend family when their lives were turned upside-down that fall Friday in 2004, the night Episcopal HS Football player J.T. Townsend took a near fatal hit on the field. We never realized how clearly God would provide confirmation it was all His plan.

When the inspiration came to me, He must have smiled. This Christmas I realized how long He had been preparing us. It was not by accident we moved from Tampa to Ponte Vedra Beach all those years ago….right next door to Fred Funk, the pro golfer who introduced Tommy and I to J.T. Or that we would form the Funk’s Punks and bring that group of supporters to help J.T.

We prayed for a mission and a vision for this foundation. He gave us the mission of helping children and adults living with disabilities on the First Coast, and to help with funding important spinal cord injury research.

We prayerfully prepared a rough draft of how to structure the foundation. This was the platform upon which we began and upon which we operate today.

And, we prayed God would give us the names of the people He would have in each Board position. It is now clear how He was also preparing the hearts of more than just Tommy and me.

Lynda Masulli, JT and Judi Z

Lynda Masulli, JT and Judi Z

The day of the Christmas Tree Tour at the Masulli’s I realized He had also been at work on Lynda and Rich. It was obvious He had taken their passionate hobby of collecting beautiful artesian Christmas ornaments,decorating their beautiful home with them then turned it into a way to fund the foundation. What might have appeared to some as an extravagant hobby, now is a true sense of giving. And, the Masulli’s want to continue this event annually and look for ways to make the event even more successful. They see God’s hand in this. They too are giving back. And the blessings they receive continue to multiply filling their hearts with thanksgiving and willingness to do more.

Scott and Kelly Winer are another couple who work diligently to help make our foundation a success. Scott is a CPA who has worked on other non-profits as Treasurer. He runs our books. Kelly, has a background in rehabilitation and health care. She uses this knowledge to help on the foundation “Giving” committee. Both have necessary skills to make this foundation run financially sound and to insure the clients receive what they need from a medical standpoint. It is not be accident they found themselves on the same path as we. In fact, I first met Kelly when she styled Lindsay’s wedding with Liza Chung, another Board member whom God strategically placed in front of me. Kelly often visits the homes of our clients and shares with us how the things we provide enrich the lives of all of the family members and of the appreciation they express.

Kelly also brought us a Physical Therapist, Eric Mason. Eric provides valuable insight for our approval process. Eric is able to determine if the equipment they are requesting will be medically beneficial for them and cost effective for us. He encourages his patients and other Physical Therapists who have patients with disabilities to apply with us for items their medical insurance denies.

Liza Chung comes to us with a vast background in event planning and has many local contacts. She is the perfect person to conduct a brainstorming session, using her creativity to determine the best way to put an event together. It is not by chance Liza and I met three years ago planning an event.

Lisa Craig, who joined our board recently has years of experience in the corporate world. As Public Relations Manager for Weight Watchers she knows how to put a story together and pitch it to the media. Those skills were utilized promoting this years Christmas Tree Tour. J.T. and I were on four local television channels promoting the event thanks to her hard work and contact list. I am happy to say, Lisa is also my very dearest friend and has literally walked with me throughout this entire journey. She has a passion for JT and others with disabilities and shares her talents to make their world a better place.

It is not by chance Lizzie Danner, also on our marketing committee, attended school with J.T.. Lizzie runs her own non-profit to raise funding for ALS research. She has an uncle who lives with the debilitating disease. Lizzie works tirelessly keeping our contact list up to date and preparing press releases and print collateral.

Every successful foundation today utilizes social media to get the word out about what we are doing and the events we hold to keep us funded. It is not by chance that Michael Lewis Jr. grew up living near Fred Funk and attended Episcopal with J.T. Michael’s expertise is in the field of social media and works hard to develop and maintain our web site, Facebook pages and Twitter account.

This is just a snapshot of how God given talents of some of our twenty volunteer board members came to us,taken from a secular world and used for His plan.

J.T. and with "Santa" (First Coast Living's Nick Loren) makes smiles appear.

J.T. and with “Santa” (First Coast Living’s Nick Loren) makes smiles appear.

What this foundation has meant to J.T. Townsend is certainly larger than he could have dreamed. He personally delivers every piece of equipment to each client and visits with them leaving them with renewed hope. They see first hand what J.T. has been able to do while living life from a wheelchair. For two years J.T. has delivered toys to very sick children at Nemours Children’s Clinic. These families are strapped with medical expenses making a Christmas gift very much appreciated. J.T. is often asked to share his inspiring story before groups. And, is working diligently to complete his studies at UNF with a degree in Sports Management. He will begin an Internship with The Wounded Warrior Project in January, 2013 the final class required for his graduation. As the President of JTTF he overseas daily operation and strategizes the course for growth of his foundation. This is a dream come true. But, J.T. gives God the glory for all of it. He realizes God’s plan was even bigger than the one he himself had for his life.

Those of us who have seen how one piece of adaptive equipment can make the day a little bit easier for a caregiver and give the patient a little taste of independence in a world where so much is relied on from others, understands the depth of what we are doing. Each client brings with them a compelling story of need, sacrifice and oceans of love. We have become connected with them in a very special way. We feel as if we are all a part of one large community family and it feels so very good for all of us.

We say we are in the “miracle business”. We can take a frown and turn it into a smile.

We truly believe.

Tommy, Judi and our friend – J.T. Townsend

Putt N Crawl 2011

Putt N Crawl 2011

JT Townsend surrounded by family and friends.

This past Saturday, thanks in part to Bonnie Upright of Upright PR and Karen Estella Smith, our Executive Director, the newly formed JT Townsend Foundation was selected as a participating charity in the 7th Annual Putt N Crawl event at Jacksonville Beach. The event is basically a group of beach bars that host a golf hole. Participants purchase a ticket with some of the proceeds going to their favorite charity. They are given a wrist band at check-in, along with a golf score card with a map of the course on the back. They are given a discount on drinks at the participating bars and must mark their score cards to share in the competition “after party” at the designated bar. We were assigned hole number 12 at Bukkets Baha Beach Bar.

The golf holes and the attire of the participants is creative and also a part of the competition with monetary prizes awarded to the best. The web site posted pictures from previous years, and when I realized this was truly a competition, I called on my friend Matt Borocz who just happens to be the National Director of Golf for TPC courses to see if he had a putting green or anything I could borrow. This would be our starting point. We had to come up with something challenging and creative.

That is when this project started growing legs! Karen and I were wracking our brains thinking of how we could design the hole to be fun and creative. Not being handy with hammer and nails or pieces of wood, we were at a large loss for how to even begin. Well, Matt came to the rescue BIG TIME. He visited the web site and saw the holes from years past. It was time to call in the big guns. He called in three guys who volunteer at The Players every year. They are the guys who construct anything that is needed for the Tours own nationally telecast and surely to be designated the fifth “major” tournament. Uncle Buzz, Phil and John were called into a meeting and they were given the challenge. All I had to do was provide the Bud and the materials, they would do the rest.

Uncle Buzz and his team! Phil, John, Ron and Judi Z

The design could be only one thing if any volunteer from The Players was involved. It had to be a replica of the famed 17th hole of the Stadium Course at Sawgrass, surrounded by water, a Sunday pin placement,a sand trap and fish and alligators.

Uncle Buzz’s team really went all out. When Matt told them a competition was involved, they stepped it up even further. We had about a week to complete the task. They spent hours over breakfast at The Beach Hut discussing how they would make it all come together. Then hours in the “barn” at TPC constructing. Even Uncle Ernie and Eli were involved. And come together it did! Uncle Buzz asked me to join the team. My job was decoration. Well of course it was!

Finally, the day arrived. Tom and I met Team Buzz at Beach Hut at 7:30AM for breakfast. We made our plans and set off in different directions, but the goal was to have the hole completed by 12:00 noon. We accomplished our goal with time to spare and the GM at Bukkets, Ken, was extremely accommodating and pleased that he was the lucky guy to host JTTF.

Last years attendance for the Putt N Crawl was around 4000 people. The Buzz was promoting the event and they expected this years attendance to reach as high as 6500 crawlers! Karen had sent out several requests for volunteers to assist the day of and I had set up an event on Facebook so we could have all of our friends attend and hopefully invite even more supporters for JT’s new foundation. Social media is such an amazingly great tool to get word out immediately and a firm yes no or maybe from all invitees. Word was spreading fast and it looked like we were going to have a successful turnout.

That is one crazy golf outfit complete with a Budwiser beer box hat!

It truly was not about how much money we would earn that day. It was more about getting the foundation out there in front of the people. Media began to arrive around 2PM when volunteers were in place and JT and his family had arrived. This was exactly what we had prayed for. And then it began……

Crawlers began to arrive and their comments were very positive about our hole. The costumes were really fun and you could tell the ones who were in it to win it. One group with matching tee shirts and every one dressed in kilts visited our hole early.

One beautiful girl in their party was in a motorized wheel chair and had a Happy Birthday Banner draped around her. As I explained about the JTTF she listened intently. She wanted to hear more and I told her to speak to our President, JT Townsend. The group putted through and she pulled her chair right up next to JT and they talked for a long while. Then a miracle happened. God surly sent those kilted crawlers to our hole. The beautiful lady in the wheelchair told me she wanted to donate a motorized wheelchair she had no use for to the foundation so we could find someone who could not afford one. This lady had been an anesthesiologist at Flagler Hospital and four years ago was diagnosed with MS. She loved the mission of the foundation and wanted to join us in this way. I felt as if we had accomplished far more than we had ever dreamed the day would bring.
Seriously, God listens to our prayers. He knows the desires of our hearts and often times He answers us in bigger ways then we could ever imagine. God answered our prayers for a successful event. Beyond the donation of the wheelchair or the money we took in , or anything else, every person who was involved will be forever changed because they were a part of a wonderful experience. Good caring generous people like Stacey at Home Depot who made it possible for us to borrow the plants we set around the hole. And Lisa, Liza, Kelly and Scott, my dear friends who helped us all day long. My family, Tom, Lindsay, Louis, Stephanie and John all rallied around JT that day. Oh, and of course Matt and Team Buzz.

Best of all we did win the hole competition for the 7th Annual Putt N Crawl and a $300 check to the Foundation. Thank you everyone who came out and supported us last Saturday! You are the BEST!