Dear Never Quit Tour/ Gerard, Karina and Erik Petroni,

It was an honor and pleasure to speak at the Never Quit Tour at Nease High School and the Beach Fest Event. As someone who cared for Captain Gerard Petroni, I can tell you that he and his family’s story is nothing short of amazing. The story of Captain Petroni and his undiagnosed/uncontrolled high blood pressure (hypertension) is a disorder that many people in the United States have but are completely unaware of. Hypertension is known as a ‘silent killer’ because it takes the lives of people suddenly before they have any symptoms. Such was the case of Capt Petroni, with a sudden catastrophic brain hemorrhage.

Capt Petroni’s story is so amazing because he not only survived a devastating brain hemorrhage, but also made a fantastic recovery. Capt Petroni’s brain hemorrhage was from a Charcot Bouchard micro aneurysm (from hypertension) and intra-ventricular hemorrhage (bleeding within the cavities of the brain) which has a mortality of 80% or higher. To see Capt Petroni’s comeback from this type of brain injury is an inspiration and testament to an incredible man’s powerful will and a family’s unwavering love and passion for their father and husband. Capt Petroni’s story also inspires those in the medical profession who cared for him in saving his life. Seeing Capt Petroni’s comeback now inspires the medical team the next time someone comes in with a similar condition.

Capt Petroni’s story gives a wonderful message to the public about risk factors for stroke (brain attack) and heart attack. The events are very positive and inspiring to everyone. In this way, Capt Petroni’s story helps to save other people’s lives by knowing about their own health condition. Those that attended the Never Quit Tour at the Beach Fest and the High Schools all took away a powerful message: that knowledge is power, and knowing your health risk factors can impact decisions which can tremendously change your life in a meaningful way.

It was again an honor and pleasure to speak at these unique and positive events.

W. David Freeman, M.D.
Neurocritical Care Division, Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit Director
Departments of Neurology and Critical Care
Mayo Clinic
Jacksonville, Fl

Paul Madson
Director, Marketing
VISTAKON®, Division of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc.

The Never Quit exceeded our expectations. Not only was the weather picture-perfect, but the community turnout was great and their overall participation in the day’s activities made for an exciting event. Unlike other “grab and go” tent events, we were excited to see the level of genuine interest in eye health and the benefits of ACUVUE® Brand Contact Lenses. We feel that through the health messages of this event, we made a difference in people’s lives.

Doug Alred
Owner, 1st Place Sports

The Never Quit Beach Fest was the most successful first time run that 1st Place Sports has staged in a few years. Over 480 runners and walkers took part in the inaugural event. I was very impressed by all the great activities that were available for the race participants. There were also lots of activities for the kids. I think this event has lots of room to grow in the younger age-groups. With an earlier start next year this event could attract +1,000 participants.

Mary Hoff and the story of the POW-MIA flag
The following was documented as we sat on the floor in Orange Park Florida, while listening to Mary tell her story on January 5, 2013 and from articles she provided us.  We took the following pictures with her in her humble house.  

Mary Hoff met the love of her life, Michael G Hoff on a blind date in Pensacola, FL. She said “that’s where all the girls go to find a husband!” In her eyes, Michael was extremely charming, handsome, funny and someone she knew she wanted to marry and have children with. Mary stated all the girls were interested in Michael.  Commander Michael G Hoff was a Navy pilot, sent to Vietnam and shot down over Laos on January 7, 1970. The US military had no other information for Mary about what happened to her husband.  

Commander. Hoff was the only solider that went missing that day.   For 3 years, Mary had no idea if her husband was Missing in Action, a Prisoner of War or Killed in Action. Mary became a single mother of seven children.  Over the years she had communities raise money and write letters to the POW/MIA’s to give them hope.  Her missing husband created a quest to help all who had lost their loved ones in the call of duty.  She looked for anyway to bring awareness of the pain of losing a family member to the enemy.

 In 1973, three years after her husband had gone missing, the Pentagon listed Michael as Missing in Action. “I know he isn’t coming home alive, but I never stopped thinking he wasn’t coming home,” said Mary. About 10 years later, she learned that Michael’s plane had been shot down and became inverted when he attempted to eject, it pushed him into a thicket of bamboo, which severed his head, arm and leg.  His parachute never opened as he couldn’t eject properly to escape since the plane was speeding to the ground upside down. Michael’s status changed from Missing in Action to Killed in Action, in 1980.  

Her passion to have all POW/MIA service members remembered prompted her to call Annin & Co., a  flag company asking them if they would help her to create a logo on a banner that would stand as a memento for those that were lost ocaptured. Norman Rivkees, the VP of Annin & Co, commissioned the artist and WW II vet, Newt Heisley, to create the artwork for Mrs.Hoff.   Newt created the existing black and white design, which colors represent the POW’s prisoner uniforms.  Upon completion of the design, Newt Heisley, out of respect for Mary, personally flew down to Mary’s house in Orange Park, Florida and presented the art work to her.  It was only a black and white drawing and he asked her what she would like changed and what colors she would like added.  She liked it as it was and stated “Do nothing more to it. It is perfect.” Annin & Co. handed over to her the art work, the ownership and trademark rights to the art work.  The inspiration, creation and production of the MIA & POW flag originated from Mary’s deep pain from losing her husband and father of their seven children. Mary, as well as many American’s, will never stop remembering and honoring our MIA & POW troops that have sacrificed their lives for us. Her never quit attitude for all POW/MIA troops had a distinct design to help spread the message. 

The POW/MIA art was designed to be a banner, but Mary could see that it belonged on a flag.  Now she had to raise money to create the flags.   Mary personally financed the POW/MIA flag with no help from any organization. In order to raise funds for this project, she created metal bracelets that honored the POWs and MIAs with the POW/MIA logo on them.  She made them in her kitchen and would sell them from her house for a profit of .50 cents each. Once she had enough money she had Annin  & Co. make her POW/MIA flags which she then gave out to the wives and family members who had lost their loved ones in war time as POW/MIA’s.

Mary and her daughter once drove into Middle America and to their amazement, saw a POW/MIA flag hanging on a store wall.  She continued to see them being sold everywhere and was told they were being sold all over the country.  Even though Mary owns the rights to the POW/MIA artwork, she has let anyone use the design to spread the message for our service men and women from the pain she has endured since Jan  7 , 1970.  Mary knew millions of others would have felt a similar pain. Mary has never received one penny from the sale of the POW/MIA flag.

While sitting with Mary in her house, I said, “How nice it would be to have a flag autographed by you.”   This 81 year old inspiration, now suffering from Parkinson’s disease, asked if I would help her from her chair so she would not fall over, led me to an old chest and asked that I open the bottom drawer and take out the single folded POW/MIA flag which she wanted to give to me.  I said:  “But is this not your last flag, where will you get another?”  She responded, “I can buy another from the small corner flag store.”

I have truly learned in life that that the greatest movements are inspired from those who go through the deepest, darkest valleys in life.  For when you can take a pain that runs so deep and find a way to bring light from that darkness, you have a strong potential impact on all mankind.

Today, the only other flag other than the US flag that has flown about the US Capitol is the POW/MIA flag.

From a lady who looked for a real man for a husband, to a real man who gave his all for the freedom of others, to a faithful wife that was left unknowing where her husband was for 10 years. This pain inspired her to have a symbol created and flown proudly by millions all over the world.

On March 9, 1989, the official POW/MIA League flag that flew over the White House on National POW/MIA Recognition Day 1988 was installed in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda as a result of legislation passed overwhelmingly during the 100th Congress.  In a demonstration of bipartisan Congressional support, the leadership of both Houses hosted the installation ceremony. 

Commander Michael Hoff’s name has been dedicated in various places to included a building at NAS Cecil Field in Florida.

Mary is unashamed of her unyielding faith in God and gives Him the credit for why she was able to raise seven children by herself while grieving over her husband. NEVER QUIT would like to recognize Mary Helen Hoff for never giving up on her dream of creating a national symbol for honoring our troops.  Mary said that her strength to overcome her sadness comes from knowing Christ’s love for her, and that through Christ, will be reunited with her loved ones in Heaven very soon.

NEVER QUIT participant.
Thank You:

I want to Thank the Petroni Family for starting the Never Quit Beach Fest. My journey to finding this wonderful race began for me in March 2010. I had started walking to loose weight and tackle some back issues. I had 2 wonderful friends that had started running 5k’s earlier in the year, Denise and Holly, it was quite a challenge for me but I soon joined their team we became TEAM DHC. Each month we would try and meet up and do 2 run/walks a month and find 5k’s that we could support with causes we were interested in. At one race I told the ladies my dream would be to run one on the beach and as soon as I got home that day I started looking for races. I came across the Never Quit Beach Fest that was close enough for us to drive to do, little did I know when I got to their site to check for info I would find MY perfect cause. A race and day of amazing events for educating people on Stroke Awareness and High Blood pressure. I started CRYING as I watched the videos their Family had put together, you see my brother Oz had a stroke in 2009 at the age of 39. I decided then I would NEVER QUIT for him. My family and team decided we would join and do the race.

It was so exciting the morning of the race to walk out onto the sand and be amongst all the runners, the sun coming up over the ocean, it was beautiful! As we looked around I noticed they had little stations set up to have your Blood pressure taken, I insisted my husband Tim and I get ours taken. Our OMG moment came when they told him his Blood pressure was high 180/104 and we needed to visit the docs station before doing the Race. He had no idea his Blood Pressure was high, he had been complaining that his hands had been getting very tight lately but never did we connect the two. We ran the Race with our children that day in honor of my brother Oz and as soon as we returned home Tim made an appointment with our family doctor. We now watch our sodium intake, exercise and check his blood pressure often. Our Family has decided this race will be one we do every year for our family vacation and we tell everyone we know to get their Blood pressure taken.

I have always Believed God directs you in Life to people and places for a reason . That day I learned I will Never Quit, Never! for my Brother Oz and my husband Tim. I am so Thankful he directed my path to start walking and join my ladies team. Again Thank You to the Petroni Family for your continuing drive to educate families on Strokes and Regular Check ups on their Blood pressure.

From : Tim and Cindi Smith

Ponte Vedra High School Student
Hey Karina!

I’m really sorry I couldn’t have told you this in person (I really wanted to! and to meet you!!) but I had to go to class right after the presentation you gave at Ponte Vedra High School. So I decided to send you an e-mail letting you know how great your speech was and how much it impacted me.

First off, I thought your whole presentation was inspirational and up-lifting. What you and your family have gone through and overcome is incredible! Your dad and your family are true role models. I thought your whole cause of Never Quit and to be healthy and live a healthy and happy life is a great! It really impacted me to be more aware of what I am eating and how much I should be excising each day. It’s hard with school and the stress of homework, tests, and exams (especially since I’m applying time towards junior college) to get in time to exercise (even 30 min.) and watch what I eat , but after hearing your speech- that I can do whatever I want to do- I just can’t ever quit- I decided right there and then that from now on I’m going to make the time to exercise and watch what I eat and just make a healthier lifestyle for me. Also, as soon as my mom picked me up, I immediately started telling her about you, your family, and your cause (I also made my whole family watch your Never Quit video, and I have told all my friends and their parents to watch the video too, and how we must change our diets and the importance of our parents to get checked up at a hospital for high blood pressure, become active etc. It has been the same reaction with most of my friends that saw you speak.)

Now, as a family, we are all going to exercise every day for at least 30 min. It’s great!! Don’t get me wrong, I mean our family has never been super unhealthy or anything- it’s just after hearing your speech and seeing your dad, all the amazing things he has done in life, and how healthy he was and what happened to him- I just really wanted my family and I (and all other families) to be really aware of what we re eating and to be excising daily, and getting checked up with doctors so we don’t take advantage of the body we have. On top of influencing me to make a healthy life for myself your story also helped me to see that I can Never Quit- that even though I don’t really know what I want to be, I have a ton of options open to me- and I just can’t quit trying. Your whole presentation was so amazing and inspirational, I cannot tell you enough!

Also, I was not the only one who was impacted, a lot of my friends, and just random people I heard talking in the hall, were really really inspired and influenced by your presentation saying how they want to never quit doing this and never quit doing that. Your whole presentation was just incredible! We loved how you and your brother set it up to be more relaxing with a and Q and A, instead of just preaching to us, this was a great idea and really made your points get across to everyone much better.

Also I LOVED what your brother said to the guys about loving, caring for and respecting girls, it was GREAT!!! I find it unbelievable that you haven’t had a boyfriend! (I mean if such beautiful women’s pro surfer can’t get a great guy for a boyfriend, I seriously don’t think there is any hope for the rest of us! ) Also, at the same time,- this is going to sound really weird- but I thought it was really cool because I haven’t had a boyfriend either, but seeing you, made me realize I can be totally awesome without one! I thought just seeing you and hearing about you and all you and your family have overcome was amazing, but to actually SEE your Dad and HEAR him read that poem “IF” and sing the “That’s Life” song with all of us, I mean, Wow, there are no words to express how breath taking and just truly amazing and inspirational that was!

I cant believe your only 21 and already have such an amazing grasp on life and have so much going for you and so much to offer! Anyway, I just really wanted to tell you all that and ask how my friends and I can help with your Never Quit Beach Festival and become involved. You said something about having volunteers but I’m not sure how we go about becoming one. So whenever you get a chance if you could let me know, we would really like to help out or get to sign up to do the events!

Anyway thanks so much for coming to our school and really opening our schools eyes and giving an All-Around Amazing, Inspirational, Presentation! Good luck with your surfing!!

P. S. 
Sorry this was really long!

Name: Yannick

Subject: Film

hey 🙂 i just wanted to say that your film was absolutely amazing.. the things you and your family went threw but you all kept strong!! you are an example really 🙂 
hope your family is ok and keep surfing because you rock lol 😀

“never quit” 😀

Hayley Hand
My Never Quit Story

This might not be the forum to share my story, but I wanted to let you know how much your Never Quit message has stayed with me this year. My Mom and I participated in your 5K last year, (our first 5K) and on our bibs we wrote “I’ll Never Quit for my Family”, but we had no idea how much we would have to dig deep for our family this year. In June of last year my sister was in horrible car accident and ended up with a broken back, neck, shoulder and arm along with bleeding in her brain and fluid pressing on her lungs. Throughout months and months of a “NEVER QUIT” attitude, medical attention and physical therapy my sister now WALKS again! She is now teaching 2nd grade at an elementary school here in Jacksonville. Then in January of this year my grandmother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Yesterday we got the news that the cancer has spread and there is nothing else they can do. My family decided that we would fight to the end with her and keep our NEVER QUIT attitude!

My mom, my sister,my husband and I registered for your NEVER QUIT 5K 2012 to show we didn’t (and WILL NEVER!) QUIT!

Many blessings to you and your family. It’s a wonderful message, applicable to all in some way or another.
I will NEVER QUIT!!!!!

My Never Quit Miracle

Hi Erik,

Today I met and chatted with you at the Expo and after sharing my story, you asked me to email. You didn’t think I would ….. but here’s my email!!!! About 3 years ago, I first met you outside JRC. I signed up for your race that year – partly because of the name and partly because of the t-shirt with dolphins on it! I remember being in contact with you afterwards because my t-shirt shrank and you kindly replaced it for me!

The words “NEVER QUIT” have always been a mantra of mine. I struggled with an eating disorder for many years but I truly believed that if I “never quit”, I would find freedom – and I did! However, the words became even more important to me as my husband and I embarked on our journey to have children. It was not easy. In fact, we went through 2 mini cycles of IVF, and then 5 true cycles. I wore the “Never Quit” t-shirt on my day of transfer as a reminder to “Never Quit”. We experienced 2 miscarriages and to be honest, after cycle number 5, I was not sure I could go through it again. However, we decided to try one more time and began cycle number 6. The week leading up to the transfer, I pulled a muscle in my back and was not sure I would be able to go through with it. The morning of the actual transfer we had made the decision to go ahead. I had my doubts as didn’t know if I would be able to lie down for long enough for them to do the procedure but thought I should go ahead and try. As I got ready, I was looking for a piece of paper. I went into our tv room and then back to the bathroom. There on the floor I noticed something ….. it was the “Never Quit” bookmark from the first 5k in 2009. I can honestly say I have absolutely no idea where the bookmark came from that morning. I’d not used it for quite some time, just keeping it safe as a memento. And yet, that morning I was clearly meant to see it and be reminded that I should “Never Quit” on my dream of becoming a mom. I took that bookmark with me to the transfer and carried it in my purse for several weeks. Clearly God wanted me to remember that if I trusted in Him, my dream would become a reality. Well, in November I gave birth to my beautiful son. My miracle happened and I can truly say that your t-shirt, bookmark, and race name have been a part of that journey the past 2 – 3 years and a reminder of the importance of not giving up!! So there you have it! My little ramble and yet, something I wanted you to know. Having been the organizer of a 5k last year, I know first hand how you never realize the impact you may have on someone’s life when organizing a race like this. Your race has undoubtedly touched many people and I’m sure you hear many stories of how it has inspired them. But I wanted you to hear my story as I know for me, God took that bookmark and used it as a reminder that my miracle was waiting to happen so long as I “Never Quit”. Thanks for all you do!! I can’t wait to participate in the race this year and while I won’t be running, my son and I are excited to walk together by the ocean that day and celebrate the miracle we both are and the miracle of “Never Quitting!!!!!”

Kind regards!!!

Linda Kaye


The following is a prime reason why there is a NEVER QUIT event and why we were able to have our father recover from his stroke and brain bleed. 
(I think you will love these videos)

After my father had his first stroke and brain bleed, all but one Dr. (Dr William Freeman of Neuroscience Intensive Care Director at Mayo Clinic) said that my father would never make any significant improvement. Many doctors said that my mother and I should live our own lives and let my father sit in a chair for the end of his life. Never! We tried everything including enrolling my father in the Brain Clinic located in Texas which cost about $1,600 Per Day. We were there for about 6 months. After 6 months the Brain Clinic told us that we had to leave as Dad was not making any progress. When we came back to Jacksonville we had to figure out another way. 

As many of you may know, we grew up in the Panama Canal Zone where my father was a senior Panama Canal ships Pilot and worked with Army Special Forces and Navy. It just so happened that one of my childhood Zonian friends, Dan Lowinger had also moved from the Canal Zone to Jacksonville. Dan’s son was diagnosed with auditory processing disorder at an early age and Dan had looked for a way to help his son. He found LearningRx in Colorado and after learning how it could help his son, he decided to bring LearningRX to Jacksonville. The LearningRx programs provided unbelievable results for his son, and since then the Jacksonville LearningRx center has helped many many other kids and adults from elementary to college aged students that are gifted or have learning struggles such as processing disorders, Dyslexia, or ADHD. They have also helped stroke, and TBI patients and people diagnosed with Autism or Asperger’s syndrome.

Dan had heard that we had moved from the Brain Clinic in Texas back to Jacksonville and he called us telling us he felt LearningRX could help us. We were able to have Dad take part in a individualized LearningRx cognitive training program for the next 6 months. During the first 2 months we saw some measureable progress, however, after 6 months of training we could not believe the results. My father was able to memorize and recite the poem “IF” by Rudyard Kipling in front of 2,000 High School students and could now carry on full conversations with my mother and family. I could see his confidence and happiness rise and his frustration leave him. My mother said, “I now have my husband back and our children now have their father back”. 

Learning Rx and Dan Lowinger’s desire to Never Quit for his son has helped hundreds of people. These two videos will give you an idea of what happened to a man who was at the top of his game, had a stroke an d massive brain bleed, in a coma and went from 180 lbs to 95 lbs, to a man who could crack jokes again. In the last days, he would walk the LearningRx trainer to her car and he would run down the beach with his family once again. The largest “Thanks and We Love You” to all the people at LearningRx. You helped us have our Dad back and without you, I do not think the NEVER QUIT events would have taken place, helping thousands and I believe saving the lives of so many. The good that has come from kindness and devotion is unmeasurable. 

To anyone reading this, you ever need one of the most enthusiastic giving groups of people to help you, please do call them at: 904 992 0971 or

Thank you Learning RX,.

Always gratefully yours,
The Petroni family.