Big gift from The Players to Mal Washington Foundation

Golf tournament in the area will donate $500,000 toward new Teen Center

Former tennis star MaliVai Washington, left, shakes hands with Jared Rice, the executive director of The Players, on Thursday. Rice presented Washington with a $500,000 grant for the Teen Center, part of the foundation's new project that will open next year.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – MaliVai Washington set an aggressive fundraising goal for his growing youth foundation — $5 million.

He’s much closer to that now.

The Players Championship announced a $500,000 gift to the MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation on Thursday, putting the organization much closer to its $5 million target that will help launch its Teen Center next year.

Washington, a former tennis star, said that the goal could be met any time, but alluded to the end of the year as the realistic goal. The Players’ gift and announcement, which was fronted by area resident and 2003 U.S. Open champion, Jim Furyk, is a grant that will match funds up to $500,000.

“When you have a name like The Players behind what you’re trying to do, it just lends a certain level of credibility to everything you’re doing,” Washington said. “There will be people who support what we’re doing simply because The Players is supporting.”

Washington’s foundation, now in its 22nd year, is an after-school program located in the city’s urban core area. It focuses on teaching life skills and provides numerous assets to children from kindergarten through high school.

The new teen center, done in partnership with the City of Jacksonville, will allow the Mal Washington Youth Foundation to nearly triple the amount of middle and high school students it can help serve.

“You just have to touch and feel that once and see how important it is to them,” Furyk said of what he’s gotten out of working with the foundation over the years.

“Makes you want to do more and that’s part of Mal’s vision, he wants to help more kids in this area and grow, and that’s part of this grant from The Players and his vision for the future of the foundation.”

Washington is best known for reaching the Wimbledon final in 1996. He was ranked as high as No. 11 in the world in tennis.

“Jacksonville became home when [Furyk’s wife] Tabitha and I started raising our family here,” Furyk said. “When we had our kids, we kind of got rooted in the Jacksonville community. You never have to go that far from home to realize there’s a need.”

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.