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17-year-old Allen Roberson was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in 2018 and has since endured numerous rounds of chemotherapy and proton radiation, as well as multiple surgeries and shunts in his brain. He went from being an active athlete to having to learn to walk all over again.
And yet, none of these challenges have stopped Allen from bringing positivity and a smile to everyone he meets, including the best golfers in the world at THE PLAYERS Championship.
THE PLAYERS, in partnership with non-profit Dreams Come True—the First Coast’s only locally-based non-profit organization dedicated to fulfilling the dreams of children with life-threatening illnesses—gave Roberson an inside-the-ropes, VIP experience during the 2019 tournament.
“I feel like a celebrity,” Roberson told the Florida Times Union.
Roberson’s dream is one of 4,000 dreams that have been granted for children on the First Coast since the organization started in 1984…thanks to a dream fulfilled at THE PLAYERS…
On Tuesday, September 30, 2019, THE PLAYERS Championship announced that the 2019 tournament generated a record $9.25 million for Northeast Florida charities, building upon the more than $100 million that has directly supported charitable organizations since the tournament’s inception in 1974.
While this dollar amount is certainly impressive, it is the stories of the men, women and children on the receiving end of these charitable contributions—stories like Allen Roberson’s—that give true meaning and context to THE PLAYERS’ impact on lives and communities.
Here’s a look back at some of the most memorable stories of impact over the past year. These are just some of the many ‘stories behind the dollars’:
“Thanks to people like Billy and Feeding Northeast Florida, we get to put them to bed each night with a warm, full belly.”
Every day in Northeast Florida, upwards of 50,000 kids wake up with the same dire question in mind:
“Will I get anything to eat today?”
The figures are staggering and heartbreaking.
On Tuesday of the 2019 PLAYERS, though, two key players in the mission to provide better, more stable lives to those in need came face-to-face for the first time.
Trevic McAfee is an active duty member of the U.S. Navy. He was deployed six times between 2002 and 2018 to places ranging from the Persian Gulf to Somalia to Central and South America. He and his wife, Michelle, are also foster parents living in Jacksonville. In addition to their two biological children, the couple have fostered 12 children in just the last three years. Their passion for foster kids even resulted in the adoption of one.
In order to continue with their mission of fostering, Trevic and Michelle need help keeping food on the table.
Billy Horschel is a five-time PGA TOUR champion and winner of the 2014 FedExCup. He and his wife, Brittany, don’t need help keeping food on the table.
In 2014, the Horschels – Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, residents – learned of Feeding Northeast Florida, a beneficiary of THE PLAYERS and an organization dedicated to helping local kids, families, seniors and active and retired military members who struggle with having enough food.
“Just seeing the figures about how many kids in Northeast Florida are food insecure made a real impact on us,” Horschel said.
Each year at THE PLAYERS, Horschel leads a campaign called #DriveOutHunger, where he donates $5,000 for every eagle he makes and $1,000 for every birdie to Feeding Northeast Florida. In 2019 alone, Horschel raised $16,000.
When Horschel and McAfee connected at TPC Sawgrass and put faces to one another in the united fight to make the world a better place, McAfee presented Horschel with a Challenge Coin. Carried often by members of the military, Challenge Coins are given thoughtfully to individuals deemed likely to inspire, enhance morale and, therefore, improve the quality of life for others.
“Thanks to people like Billy and Feeding Northeast Florida, we get to put them [our kids] to bed each night with a warm, full belly,” said McAfee.
“They say you’re only as happy as your saddest child, and I wish no parent the pain that goes along with watching a child suffer with mental illness.”
“I have experienced firsthand the experience of what mental illness can do to a family,” said Jason Barrett, President and CEO of Flagler Health+. “They say you’re only as happy as your saddest child, and I wish no parent the pain that goes along with watching a child suffer with mental illness. This is personal for me.”
National data reveals that mental illness among youth is on the rise, and St. Johns County is a state leader in overall deaths by suicide for youth, ages 18-24. In Florida, six out of 10 youth (66.8%) who are depressed and are most at-risk for depression do not receive any mental health treatment.
On Monday, September 30, 2019, THE PLAYERS announced a $1 million gift to Flagler Health+ to help fund a youth behavioral and mental health program in St. Johns County Public Schools.
The program, called B.R.A.V.E. - Be Resilient and Voice Emotions - was established to encourage area youth to get in touch with their behavioral health early on, be open to receiving help, address social barriers, and, most importantly, access behavioral healthcare services at the right time, at the right place.
“Mental health needs are widespread, and they cannot go unnoticed any longer,” said Nease High School senior Anna Hampton. “The growing pressure of academic competitions, selective college admissions and social anxieties all contribute to the struggles students face with mental health issues.”
B.R.A.V.E. includes care coordination and navigation services, access to virtual mental health counseling visits and a 24 -hour crisis text line. So far this school year, more than 35 students have already been referred to Care Connect via BRAVE this school year.
35 years of dreams come true.
…Allen Roberson’s dream come true at THE PLAYERS in 2019 is one of the most recent in a long list of wishes granted to the First Coast’s most deserving kids.
17-year-old George Lee was one of those deserving dreamers, and it was his dream in 1984 that launched Dreams Come True, which has changed thousands of lives ever since.
Lee, who was battling cystic fibrosis, absolutely loved golf. When Thomas R. McGehee, Chairman of Jacksonville-based merchant distributor Mac Papers, and his wife, Delia learned of Lee’s passion, they arranged for George to play with TOUR professional Fred Couples in THE PLAYERS’ pro-am in. Following their round together, Couples gave George his driver. This simple act of kindness meant the world to George and his family. A year later, George lost his battle with cystic fibrosis, and his prized driver was buried by his side. George’s round of golf with Couples—who went on to win THE PLAYERS just a few days later—inspired the founding of Dreams Come True.
2019 marks Dreams Come True’s 35th birthday, and in honor of this special milestone, THE PLAYERS surprised Dreams Come True with a $60,000 donation during a phone-a-thon on Monday, June 10, 2019. This donation will fund “A Year of Dreams,” and twelve children in northeast Florida will have their dreams granted…Dreams that will never be forgotten, including by those who helped make them possible:
“It is a special memory that I still hold all these years later,” said Fred Couples. “Few things mean more to us than the opportunity to help bring smiles to the faces of children and families during their most challenging times.”
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