Before they even met each other, Bob and Mickie Ziarko were connected — by a diagnosis of cancer and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Having lost their spouses, who were passionate St. Jude supporters, to cancer several years ago, the Ziarkos decided to create a golf tournament in The Villages, Florida, to honor and continue their support of St. Jude.
“Together we realized how very lucky we were to have a second chance at life, and how blessed we were that our spouses were both very dedicated to St. Jude,” Bob said. “Mick and I decided that we wanted to carry on that tradition.”
Bob, 64, and Mickie, 60, started the St. Jude Time to Give Back Golf Tournament in 2014. In May it raised $177,000 for St. Jude through the golf tournament and a gala dinner with silent auctions, as well as a concert featuring a Beatles tribute band that was held a few weeks prior to the tournament. In just three years, the event has raised more than $359,000 for St. Jude.
The golf tournament and festivities are held in The Villages, a growing retirement community with about 147,000 residents, and are open to anyone, resident or not. This year the tournament drew 340 golfers, and 520 supporters attended the gala.
The Ziarkos, who were married two years ago, began the event with a goal of raising $10,000 for St. Jude, where families never receive a bill for treatment, travel, housing or food — because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.
“It’s a lot of fun, and a labor of love,” Bob said, praising the six-person leadership committee and nearly 100 volunteers who put on the event. “When we started this, our goal was to help one child. If we work on one child at a time, are able to educate our residents and our guests, and we all walk out with the goal of helping just one child, we could do a lot down here.”