Townsend tailgate raises funds for pediatric patients

Johnny Townsend speaking at Tailgate event

Former Florida Gator punter Johnny Townsend and fellow UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital supporters are picking up steam as they enter their fourth year of fundraising for pediatric oncology.

In April, Townsend hosted a Spring Game Tailgate ahead of the annual Orange & Blue game, benefiting the pediatric oncology unit at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. This ticketed event included an afternoon of distinct Gators guests, food and drink, and a silent auction of special items.

The Spring Game Tailgate was the latest effort by Townsend to benefit children at UF Health. Thanks to a recent $50,000 gift, he and other supporters are preparing to unfurl several much-needed “shade sails” in the UF Health Children’s Healing Garden. The garden is an outdoor space where patients, families and staff can spend time outside, helping to provide some outdoor enjoyment while at the hospital for treatment.

The tailgate welcomed over 300 guests and raised more than $41,000 through ticket sales and the silent auction.

Guests were treated to a star-studded meet-and-greet with former Gators Coach Steve Spurrier and more than 80 former Gators football players, as well as Scott Stricklin, University of Florida athletic director. A team of professional photographers snapped photos of attendees with some of their favorite Gators players. Guests enjoyed local catering from Sonny’s BBQ, and an open bar provided needed refreshment on the warm, sunny day. A DJ kept the party going with steady beats while attendees could also enjoy a fun photo booth with a variety of Gators football props.

In addition to ticket sales, a silent auction featured exciting Gators gifts, and proceeds also went toward fundraising efforts. Items included Traeger Grills packages, Heisman footballs from Spurrier’s personal collection — with one ball autographed by more than 20 Heisman trophy winners — as well as an assortment of signed Gators memorabilia.

During the event, Townsend spoke about how important these charitable endeavors have always been important/meaningful/special to him since he was a student at UF, as he participated in community service programs like the one that led to his involvement with pediatric patients at the children’s hospital.

William Slayton, M.D., division chief and professor of pediatric hematology-oncology, also spoke about how much Townsend’s fundraising has meant to the children at UF Health.

“Johnny’s continued commitment has been an inspiration to myself and the entire pediatric hematology-oncology team,” Slayton said. “We are grateful for the generous way that Johnny has shared his time and influence to make a difference in the lives of the pediatric patients at UF Health.”

Left to right: Scott Stricklin, University of Florida athletic director, Johnny Townsend, William Slayton, M.D., division chief and professor of pediatric hematology-oncology

When asked why he has put so much time and energy into helping these children, Townsend spoke earnestly about making the most of the opportunities he’s been given to make a difference for others.

“I’ve always had a passion for charitable giving, especially in the form of my time,” Townsend said. “It’s such a rewarding experience to put effort into a cause and see those efforts change lives. Football has given me a unique platform to unite individuals into a charitable community around UF Health Shands Childrens Hospital, allowing me to give back to the children in need of hope, and to be a positive influence in my community.”

If you’d like to contribute to the pediatric oncology projects being supported by The Johnny Townsend Fund, click the link below.

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