Jaguars long snapper Joe Zelenka hosted his 2nd annual Joe Z Celebrity Bowling Classic recently to benefit the Ronald McDonald House of Jacksonville. Several Jaguars players and local celebrities were in attendance. The event helped contribute close to $40,000 to the foundation, nearly $10,000 more than last year's event.
"We had such a great time last year raising money for the kids and the house, we had to do it again this year," Zelenka said. "My teammates that show up at this event for me are my brothers. I love them to death. It says a lot about the team and how the guys care for the city of Jacksonville and the kids here. This team has such a heart for the community and such a love for the kids."
The Ronald McDonald House took on a special meaning to the Zelenka family when the family was impacted by the organization a few years ago.
"My brother and sister-in-law in Ohio were pregnant with twins," Joe's wife Rebekah Zelenka said. "They lost one of their twins right at the very end and they had to deliver the other one premature. They stayed at a Ronald McDonald House in Cleveland. It's amazing how God works, because four years later we're pregnant with our own set of twins."
Joe agrees with his wife's assessment on the value of the Ronald McDonald House and the amenities that it offers.
"We're going to help the Ronald McDonald House, that's the bottom line. These kids are going to stay in this house. They are going through the worst of the worst medical treatments. They are away from their families, their dogs, everything. They need a place to stay and they can stay at a wonderful place like the Ronald McDonald House. It's a place that is near and dear to our hearts."
Zelenka bowled and mingled with the rest of the bowlers during the tournament and offered commentary on many of his teammates' bowling abilities.
"Brad Meester comes with raw power, Chris Hanson comes with finesse, many of the offensive linemen have the raw power, but the guy who scares me is Chad Owens. He showed up with his own pair of shoes with little felt things on the bottom, very frightening. I'm just stuck with my rental bowling shoes."
Zelenka hosted his first celebrity bowling tourney last October. The tournament was such a success he's made this an annual event.
"A lot of guys have golf tournaments for various charities but Joe Z has the bowling classic," Jaguars tight end Kyle Brady said. "He's got the bowling shirts for everyone, which are awesome. It's for a great cause, the Ronald McDonald House. We're here to have fun and support the Ronald McDonald House."
In his six years in Jacksonville Zelenka has done a tremendous amount of community work for the city of Jacksonville. He continues to give back to as many people in this community as he can.
"My wife and I have fallen in love with Jacksonville the last six years we have been here," Zelenka said. "It's our home. We live here year-round. I consider myself a native Jacksonville guy. It's my home, the people here are great, and I can't say enough about the city of Jacksonville."
The Ronald McDonald House is a facility which houses families that have children who are receiving long-term treatment at one of the local hospitals. The house provides comfort and care for the children and their families. A shuttle is also provided to the parents and kids to travel back and forth to the hospital to receive treatment. The home includes a large living room, a giant kitchen, many bedrooms and several playrooms filled with toys for the kids. The residence is equipped with all of the amenities that anyone would find at home.