TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A fundraiser Thursday night at Top Golf in Tampa brought together two families that have experienced the grief of losing a loved one. But they’ve both been able to turn their tragedies into triumph.
The Gabby Petito Foundation and the Just Help Out Foundation partnered together to host Tee Off 4 Hope.
Petito’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, told News Channel 8 everything she does is for her daughter.
“I have ‘Let It Be,’ which is Gabby’s tattoo,” Schmidt said, pointing to the tattoo on her arm. “When song comes on I can’t listen to it. We love having that and she also drew this one that is part of her artwork.”
Petito’s mother and Nichole Venegas have a lot in common.
“We were like, we had the same name, we spell it the same, we both have firefighter husbands, both have these foundations,” Venegas said. “But we didn’t find that out until we crossed paths several times.”
The goals of their foundations are to prevent what happened to their loved ones from happening to others.
Venegas’ brother died by suicide last year.
“Before he had done that, he said he was feeling hopeless,” Venegas said. “Our mission is to help anyone in the community who is feeling hopeless.”
Venegas told News Channel 8 the Just Help Out Foundation has been able to assist 30 people facing mental health challenges, homelessness and hunger.
“[Joey] absolutely loved golf,” Venegas said. “So tonight is very difficult because he’d love to be here.”
Everyone who teed off Thursday night raised money for suicide prevention, mental health awareness, missing person cases and victims of domestic violence.
Two years ago, Petito’s disappearance and tragic death during the cross country road trip with her fiancé captivated the country. Now, Gabby’s family is committed to keeping her memory alive.
“I really hope that Gabby inspires others to be empowered and be able to get out of a bad situation safely,” Schmidt said. “There’s always the domestic violence hotline, which is 800-799-SAFE (7233). I encourage people to call if they are feeling like they’re in a situation or for a friend or family member who might be.”