JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Players Championship reached more than $100 million in total donations for Northeast Florida nonprofits on Friday when it surprised four local charities with donations that will help them make big moves.
The unexpected donations rolled out in front of City Hall in downtown Jacksonville after Mayor Lenny Curry proclaimed July 13 as "The Players Championship Charity Day."
The Players surprised the Jacksonville Children’s Chorus with a 33-passenger van, Hart Felt Ministries with a handicapped-accessible van, and Jacksonville's Police Athletic League (PAL) and the Jacksonville School for Autism with 15-passenger vans.
The brand-new van for PAL will allow it to offer activities to improve the relationship between children and law enforcement officers at six locations in Jacksonville. Until now, broken-down vans had made transportation difficult.
"They (the PAL kids) are absolutely excited and ecstatic. One was just dancing," said Mary Bishop, education director of PAL. "They are super excited, and we are truly blessed and honored to have this opportunity."
The custom wheelchair-accessible van donated to Hart Felt Ministries will allow it to continue to serve senior citizens.
"Most of our clients are homebound. They can't drive anymore. So having a van, we'll have a dedicated person taking them to doctors' appointments, be with them the whole time and take them home," said Kelly Moorman Coggins, president of Hart Felt Ministries. "They won't have to wait for a bus or JTA (Jacksonville Transportation Authority) or Uber or anything else."
The Jacksonville Children’s Chorus performed during Friday's event. The new van will allow the group to save thousands of dollars each year on transportation costs.
"Surprised is definitely an understatement," said Darren Dailey, president of the Jacksonville Children's Chorus. "We travel quite a bit and this bus is going to allow us to reach so many more performances."
The Jacksonville School for Autism will use the new wheels to help transport some of its students to work, teaching them independence.
"(It's) so unexpected," said Michelle Dunham, executive director of the Jacksonville School for Autism. "It's really a gift beyond anything I can put into words right now."
Each charity had approached The Players in the past about transportation issues and the need for donations, which is why they were chosen to receive the vans.
The vans, totaling about $250,000, that were gifted to four charities will help the entire community.
At the end of the event, everyone cooled down with some snow cones before driving off in the new rides.
In 2011, The Players pledged to raise $50 million in 10 years for local nonprofits that promote youth education, health and wellness, and character development. The tournament reached its goal two years ahead of schedule and plans to put that money in charities across Northeast Florida.