Passion Meets Purpose: The AFP Awards celebrate art of community connection

hands together in center

In a world where change-makers are the driving force behind transformative initiatives, there lies a celebration of excellence that inspires us all. The Association of Fundraising Professionals Florida First Coast Chapter honors the unsung heroes of Jacksonville philanthropy, those who advance the citizens of Jacksonville through education, peer support and advocacy. This year’s stories unveil the individuals, groups and organizations who are filling in the missing pieces and redefining what it means to give back to our communities.

Meet Your Board Members

Chaz Runfola

Sara McMillan, CFRE
President Elect

Dave Cognetta, CFRE
Immediate Past President

Jan Kary, CFRE
CFRE Chair

Sam D’Agostino
Vice President, Communications

Nikki Sabol
Communications Co-Chair

Doug Walker
Vice President, Education

Josh Hirsch
FL Caucas Representative

Gabe Grass
Foundation Development Chair

Kacie Smyth, MHA
Vice President, Membership

Kendall Sisisky Valliere
Membership Co-Chair

Brittany Upchurch, MBA
National Philanthropy Day Co-Chair

Keri Cummings
National Philanthropy Day Co-Chair

Jessica Nguyen-Smith
Scholarships Chair

KT Boling
Socials Chair

Megan Ortega Methven

Morgan Hutchinson
Youth Philanthropy Chair

Lisa Maldonado
Chapter Administrator

Lifetime Achievement

Michael Ward

Michael Ward

Nominated by: Guardian Catholic School, Feeding Northeast Florida, City Year Jacksonville

Michael Ward, a philanthropic visionary, has consistently exemplified the transformative power of giving throughout his life. In 2008, he was honored with the Outstanding Philanthropist Award by the Florida First Coast Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, a testament to his unwavering dedication to philanthropy. Together with his wife, Jennifer Glock, Michael has been a catalyst for change in Northeast Florida, channeling their resources through the Michael Ward and Jennifer Glock Foundation. Over $39 million was distributed to nonprofits in critical areas, including education, leadership development, social services, domestic violence prevention, and support for the arts.

Michael understands that true philanthropic leadership extends beyond financial contributions. He has actively served on numerous nonprofit boards, including City Year, Hubbard House, One Love, Edward Waters University, and Gen W. His generous challenge matches inspire others to engage in charitable giving.

One shining example of Michael’s impact is Guardian Catholic School, where he has significantly improved educational opportunities for over 400 underprivileged children annually. His unwavering support is also the reason City Year launched in Jacksonville and has almost 500 alumni, with thousands of students served each year.

Michael’s philanthropic reach extends further, supporting organizations like Feeding Northeast Florida, Cathedral Arts Project, Children’s Christmas Party, Girls Inc. of Jacksonville, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

His direct approach to philanthropy, as described by Ellen Wiss of READ USA, emphasizes strategic investment, genuine commitment and unparalleled impact. Michael’s legacy of giving is truly deserving of the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, recognizing his profound contributions to the community’s betterment.

Outstanding Philanthropist

David Miller

David Miller

Nominated by: Jewish Community Alliance

David Miller has a true passion and commitment to the community. He has served on numerous boards including leadership positions at the Jacksonville Civic Council, Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute, Jax Chamber, Jewish Community Alliance, Leadership Jacksonville, LiftJax, OneJax, Our Jax, Jacksonville Arts and Music School and United Way. He served as Chair of the Stein Fellowship Program at United Way and was the Campaign Leader for the Tocqueville Society Campaign.

He also invested his talent and support to many organizations including City Year, Jacksonville Public Education Fund, JCA, Jewish Federation and Foundation of Northeast Florida, JASMYN, LGBTQ Community Fund, LJD Jewish Family and Community Services, READ USA, River Garden Senior Services and The Temple.

Involved with the JCA since its inception, David was just 19 years old when the agency opened. Currently, David and the Miller families serve as co-chairs of the JCA’s Building Our Future Together Capital Campaign. The family’s $1,000,000 leadership gift inspired several Jacksonville families and individuals to give significant contributions to ensure the continuity and success of the JCA for many generations to come. In response to displays of antisemitism, he recently founded the Together Strong Community Fund (TSCF) at the Jewish Federation and Foundation of Northeast Florida. With an original gift of $1,000,000, David led an initiative to raise an additional $600,000 from local businesses and individuals. His contributions to TSCF will have an immediate impact on the eradication of hate and bias in our community through its work to create the Jewish Community Relations Council and the increase of OneJax Sandy Miller youth programs.

David is a convener, a donor, a volunteer, a leader, a promoter, a model citizen and a true example of what it means to be an outstanding philanthropist making a lasting impact on our community.

Outstanding Corporation

people smiling and holding large check

THE PLAYERS Championship

Nominated by: Baptist Health and Wolfson Children’s Hospital, Nemours Children’s Health, Pace Center for Girls

THE PLAYERS Championship is not just a world-class golf tournament; it’s a powerful force for good in the community. For 50 years, THE PLAYERS has been a beacon of philanthropy, supporting over 300 local nonprofit organizations with a focus on youth services, education, health and military support.

Their partnership with Baptist Health and Wolfson Children’s Hospital, dating back to 1986, has resulted in over $6 million in contributions toward health care and mental wellness. The establishment of THE PLAYERS Center for Child Health in 2012 has impacted 82,000 children, caregivers and parents. It offers education, injury prevention, and access to healthcare, advocating for children’s health on a national level. A recent $3 million donation will create a cutting-edge behavioral health unit at Wolfson Children’s, addressing a critical community need.

Meanwhile, in 2022, THE PLAYERS made a generous commitment to match donations, dollar for dollar, up to $2 million for the Nemours Children’s Hand in Hand capital campaign. Their support of Nemours Children’s Health-Jacksonville highlights their exceptional commitment to making a positive impact on the community and providing vital support to help organizations deliver world-class healthcare to children. Furthermore, their recent $2 million donation to name THE PLAYERS Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders further illustrates their commitment to enhance healthcare initiatives.

Additionally, THE PLAYERS Championship Village, Inc. awarded Pace Center for Girls a transformational gift of $2 million to fund a three-year pilot program in North Florida to provide girls and their families substance abuse prevention and intervention services. Positive outcomes stemming from this partnership will drive the ability of Pace to replicate the approach across the state of Florida and throughout the Southeast, further expanding the impact.

THE PLAYERS also empowers its employees and players to volunteer, fostering a culture of giving back. Their commitment to the community is unparalleled, making them a beacon of philanthropic leadership.

Outstanding Foundation

smiling cheering people cutting pink ribbon
The RITA Foundation logo

The RITA Foundation

Nominated by: Mayo Clinic, Baptist Health, UF Health Jacksonville

RITA (Research Is The Answer) Foundation began in 1996 as a small grassroots women’s tennis tournament, run by Chuck and Nancy Jantz, supporting breast cancer awareness and research. More than 25 years later, the foundation has grown to host three major fundraising events annually that have generated more than $6 million for breast cancer research and awareness in Jacksonville.

The foundation’s three fundraising events
are the SenioRITA Tennis Tournament
(women’s doubles event , 40-plus), the RITA Championships (women’s doubles), and the Mixed RITA (mixed doubles). These events require countless hours of planning and preparation from the foundation’s 35 committee members and 20 additional volunteers per event. Amazingly, RITA Foundation has remained entirely volunteer-run since its founding and contributes 100% of the net proceeds from every event to Jacksonville organizations. RITA volunteers give not only their time and talent but also their heart and soul to fundraising for the fight against breast cancer.

RITA Foundation has supported millions of dollars in significant capital, technology and research projects at Mayo Clinic, Baptist Health and UF Health in Jacksonville. Thanks to the RITA Foundation’s contributions to significant advances in the fight against cancer on the First Coast, Jacksonville has become a world-class research and treatment hub.

Outstanding Small Business or Civic Organization

group of smiling women with crab hats
Rotary Club of Amelia Island Sunrise logo

Rotary Club of Amelia Island Sunrise

Nominated by: Barnabas Center, Inc.

Rotary Club of Amelia Island Sunrise has built a legacy of community service and commitment to helping others.

This organization, made up of key professional community leaders, supports local nonprofit organizations, concentrating its energies and finances where they can make the biggest difference including: Barnabas Center, Boys & Girls Club of Nassau County, Micah’s Place, Rise Against Hunger, Friends of Fernandina Aviation, Keep Nassau Beautiful, and partnering with the city to install playground equipment in city parks.

The annual Wine & Food Tasting event (2013-2018) and now the Lobster Fest-To-Go event (2019-present), have been the major fundraising activities for the Club over the past 10 years. Since inception, the events, along with other fundraising efforts, have raised over $200,000. The Club has donated these proceeds to multiple deserving nonprofit organizations, along with important city-wide community improvements.

Evidence of their sustained commitment to philanthropy include the following:

•   Nine years of financial support for the Barnabas Center Empty Bowls luncheon to combat hunger and food security. Club members also volunteer annually to serve soup to 700 community guests at the event.

•   Hosting the annual Lobster Fest-To-Go fundraising event to support several local nonprofit organizations.

•   Participation in international support for a water filtration and well system in Nicaragua and Haiti.

Club members have volunteered and conducted local fundraising efforts for multiple local organizations and have utilized their influence to create a better place for residents. Rotary Club of Amelia Island Sunrise is a trusted partner in every part of the county and is making a difference by impacting lasting positive change for the Amelia Island community.

Next Generation

young women smiling with hands in the air
University of North Florida Dance Marathon Logo

Osprey Miracle Dance Marathon Executive Board

Nominated by: Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals

Discover the Osprey Miracle Dance Marathon (Osprey MDM), a dynamic, student-run organization at the University of North Florida dedicated to making a significant impact on their local community. Osprey MDM’s mission is to raise funds and awareness in support of their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, UF Health Jacksonville and Wolfson Children’s Hospital. Throughout the year, student leaders tirelessly engage in various fundraising initiatives, from volunteering to be pied in the face to organizing kickball tournaments and coordinating spirit nights with local businesses. Their efforts culminate in a spectacular Main Event during the spring semester, highlighting months of planning and collaboration with fellow students, faculty, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals staff, and the Jacksonville community. The Main Event is a celebration of their fundraising achievements. It features activities, inspiring Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals ambassador families, in-event fundraising, themed hours, and entertainment for over 200 participants.

Since its inception in 2007, Osprey MDM has raised over $382,500 to purchase life-saving equipment for their hospital partners. Recent contributions helped purchase the Sonifi Entertainment System, enhancing patient engagement for UF Health Jacksonville’s Pediatric ICU and Pediatric Emergency Department.

As Osprey MDM looks to the future, its commitment to local children’s health remains unwavering. Through inspiring leadership and relentless determination, they are on a trajectory to surpass their pre-COVID fundraising efforts, demonstrating their dedication to creating healthier futures for children in their community.

Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser

Bernadette and Moira

Bernadette Moran

Nominated by: The Arc Jacksonville

For over three decades, Bernadette Moran has demonstrated unwavering dedication as a volunteer, fundraiser and enthusiastic advocate for individuals with intellectual and developmental differences (IDD). Her remarkable journey began when her daughter, Moira, was born with Down syndrome. From that moment, Bernadette embraced a purpose-driven mission to actively volunteer, spearhead the creation of innovative programs, and raise crucial funds for organizations serving those with IDD.

Since 1994, she has served on The Arc Jacksonville Board. Notably, she played a pivotal role in the launch of the On Campus Transition program in partnership with the University of North Florida, giving students access to college experience. Since inception, 84 students have graduated from the college program.

She played a leading role in the capital campaign, development and opening of The Arc Jacksonville Village, a residential community for adults with IDD. The Village comprises 97 affordable apartments, along with a community center. Her efforts spanned over eight years, making the realization of The Village a resounding success.

Bernadette also made significant contributions to The Lodge, a mental health community home for individuals with a dual diagnosis of IDD and mental health disorders. Additionally, Bernadette has volunteered and fundraised for The Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville and many other organizations serving those with IDD.

Thanks to Bernadette’s unwavering commitment, countless other individuals with IDD will continue to benefit from the programs and services she has tirelessly fundraised for and nurtured throughout her life.

Outstanding Champion of Diversity

Brandice Acree Landing

Brandice Acree-Landing

Nominated by: Pace Center for Girls, Jacksonville

Brandice Acree-Landing is a shining example of a community champion, dedicated to making a difference in the lives of others. As the Employee Advocate Lead Consultant at Allstate Benefits, she fearlessly takes on projects and issues that matter most to her community.

Brandice’s journey began over five years ago when she started volunteering at the Pace Center for Girls in Jacksonville. Her warmth, generosity and patience quickly endeared her to the girls in the program, who seek a better future through education and counseling. Brandice’s commitment to Pace led her to become a Pace Ambassador, inspiring her fellow Allstate employees to join in supporting the organization through clothing drives, collecting supplies and volunteering their time.

Notably, Brandice’s advocacy extends beyond volunteering. She tirelessly seeks grant opportunities through the Allstate Foundation, securing over $40,000 in grants since 2020 for Pace. When faced with a major building issue, she promptly applied for grants to ease immediate expenses and help cover repair costs.

Beyond Pace, Brandice gives back to several other nonprofit organizations in Jacksonville, further enriching her community. Every Thanksgiving, she coordinates the collection and delivery of over 200 Thanksgiving baskets to ensure families in need have a holiday meal.

In recognition of her outstanding commitment to diversity and community empowerment, Brandice Acree-Landing is truly deserving of the Outstanding Champion of Diversity Award. Join us in celebrating this remarkable community champion who makes a meaningful difference in the lives of those she touches.

photo of group of smiling people with Jacksonville skyline behind
AFP logo

For more than 60 years, AFP has been the standard for professionalism in fundraising. AFP represents more than 40,000 members in 230 chapters across the world by working to advance philanthropy through advocacy, research, education and certification programs.

You can help support the advancement of philanthropy on the First Coast by making a gift today to the Be the Cause Campaign for the AFP Foundation. With your participation, the Foundation can continue providing the education, training and resources members need to enhance nonprofit organizations around the world and on
the First Coast.

In addition, each gift you make will take the First Coast Chapter one step closer to reaching its dollar goal and qualifying for the Chapter Partnership Grant.

With your help, we can make the goal! Please consider making a gift today at