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Tebow returns to Jacksonville for 7th annual Celebrity Golf Classic

TIM TEBOW

Celebrities from around the country gathered at the TPC Sawgrass golf course over the weekend to celebrate the 7th annual Tim Tebow Foundation Celebrity Gala and Golf Classic.

The event begins on the red carpet in the clubhouse, where celebrities ranging from former NFL players to American Idol winners to reality TV show stars unite to support the foundation's cause: "to bring faith, hope and love to those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need."

"It's a blessing to be here, to be a part of it, to have all the people that are here that supported us and believe in us," former Gator star and Heisman winner Tim Tebow said. "But, more importantly, they believe in the kids that we're trying to help. Every boy, every girl, every orphan, every special needs kid -- every single one of them. They believe in that mission. That they're all loved, that they're all special."

"Him being in the position and being on the platform that he is -- I share those same platforms," NFL great Terrell Owens said. "To whom much is given, much is required. He's definitely a living testimony of that."

"All the people that he's impacted -- the kids, the families, the countries that he's been to -- that's a lasting impression that, when we're all gone, will be a domino effect," singer Jordin Sparks said.

But, for Tebow, it's not about him. It's about the children he and the foundation serve.

"It's so easy in life to get caught up in so many different things, right?" he said. "Sports careers, keeping up with the Joneses, what you're wearing. But what really matters is the lives that we get to change."

Some of those lives include Marissa Ierna and Ansley Jones, both cancer survivors who have known Tebow for almost four years, and Cystic Fibrosis patient Alex Faircloth, who met Tebow in September. Each met Tebow through W15H, an outreach program benefitting those with life-threatening illnesses.

"Tim is just such a kind-hearted genuine person," Jones said. "I'm just so honored to know him and I'm so thankful to know him and have him as a role model to look up to. He inspires me every day and I just strive to treat others better. He just makes me wanna make the world a better place also."

"I think he's great," Faircloth said. "It's crazy how he's genuine with each person. It's not just for attention or for media, he is just so genuinely interested in every person that's here. He really is about love."

"To me, the most amazing thing is when he comes up to me and asks about something that happened three months ago and I'm like, 'how did you remember that?'" Ierna said. "It shows you that he truly genuinely loves each and every one of us. I have had a couple of rough months and he has been there for me and has been amazing. Without him and the foundation I would not have gotten through what I got through."

Throughout Saturday's round of golf, celebrities participated in games throughout the course, including a lip sync battle on Hole 17. The event raised more than $1.2 million for the foundation.

The historic 17th hole provided a few special moments. NFL Network analyst Scott Hanson, the emcee at the hole, challenged Terrell Owens to hit the green, a famously difficult feat. His reward? If he hit it, members of the crowd would donate $10 cash to the Tim Tebow Foundation on the spot.

Owens hit the green for the first time in his life, and collected $404 from the generous crowd.

A few groups later, Willie Robertson of the reality show Duck Dynasty took Hanson up on the challenge, but this time, he offered a twist. Robertson said if he hit the green, he would double the crowd's donations.

As fate would have it, Robertson also hit the green for the first time in his life. His shot raised a whopping $1460 in less than five minutes.

For W15H children, fun events like this and love from celebrities give them an opportunity to breathe a sigh of relief from the daily hardships of life. Those hardships include all-too-frequent doctor's visits, and, if you're like Faircloth, having to take up to 50 pills every day.

But on Friday night, Faircloth shone on the red carpet, side-by-side with celebrities, as the gala's guest interviewer.

"It was overwhelming. Interviewing them and them having all their attention on me, I was like, 'hi, I'm a big fan but I can't tell you that,'" she said with a laugh. "It was great to see everyone come together."

Jones, a two-time leukemia survivor who is now one year post-bone marrow transplant, kicked off the gala's dinner by leading the room in prayer.

"I had the honor to say the prayer before dinner," she said. "It was a lot of fun. It was so awesome to be in the same room as all these celebrities that you see on TV and getting to meet them and realizing how nice these people actually are."

Ierna, a marathon runner who doctors said would never complete more than five miles, didn't attend the gala, but was able to spend time at Top Golf with other W15H families.

"Getting the opportunity to do that is so rewarding and humbling," she said. "It makes you forget about everything that's going on on a daily basis and all the hardships because you look at others and share your story ... you impact others, then you get impacted and inspired because you hear other people's stories."

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