Dolphins exec’s widow, Elizabeth Jenkins, keeps late-husband’s legacy alive with DCC

Elizabeth Jenkins will never forget that stretch of I-595 on Feb. 25, 2023, when she broke away from the pack during the 100-mile Dolphins Challenge Cancer charity bike ride and found herself riding all alone for a few minutes, overcome with emotion, wondering if she could finish.

She was thinking about her late husband Jason, the Miami Dolphins senior vice president of communications and community affairs, who died suddenly of a blood clot six months earlier at age 47, leaving her alone to raise their three young children.

He was the chairman of the DCC, and she decided to ride it in his memory. She wore “J.J.” socks on her feet, his wedding band on a chain around her neck, and her emotions on her sleeves.

“There was this one moment I was riding completely by myself for probably half a mile, but it felt like forever, there was nobody on the road with me…just me, riding a bike by myself, and in the moment, I was thinking `Wow, this feels really on par with how my life feels right now,’ said Elizabeth Jenkins, who wound up taking over her husband’s position as chair of the annual event, which will be held Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium.

“The ride was definitely emotional, cathartic at moments, painful at moments, but I also finished it, which was, for me, a testament that I’m going to be able to finish this,” she said. “It wasn’t just a bike ride for me. There were miles where I wanted to give up, and that’s the story of my life since Jason left us, but you just have to keep pushing.”

Elizabeth Jenkins during the 13th DCC on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023 in South Florida. (Tomas Diniz Santos/Miami Dolphins)
Elizabeth Jenkins during the 13th DCC on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023 in South Florida. (Tomas Diniz Santos/Miami Dolphins)

Jenkins is a cross-fitter, so she considers herself “in decent shape,” but the DCC was the most physically challenging thing she has ever done, and among the most emotionally taxing.

“I did really well until I hit about Mile 80, and then I got a really bad cramp, probably wasn’t drinking enough water, but I remember that last mile, coming across the finish line, and how emotional I got,” she said.

Tom Garfinkel, the Dolphins vice chairman, president, and CEO, was waiting for her at the finish line and was the first person she hugged. Garfinkel and Jason Jenkins were very close, as Jenkins had worked for the Dolphins for 14 years.

Jenkins hopes others who participate in the event and may be dealing with life challenges will find it as therapeutic as she did.

This year’s DCC XIV (14) will feature new ride distances in honor of Miami Dolphins players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

There will be a 13-mile Dan Marino ride presented by Aetna, a 39-mile Larry Csonka ride Presented by Robins and Morton, a 54-mile Zach Thomas ride and a 99-mile Jason Taylor ride.

The DCC is the Dolphins-led year-round initiative to support those impacted by cancer in partnership with Sylvester Cancer Center. It is the NFL’s largest fundraising event and last year raised more than $10 million. The event has raised more than $64 million for local cancer research since its inception in 2010.

This year’s ride will integrate the Miami International Autodrome (MIA) facilities that include the Paddock garages, the start/finish line of the Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix, and the Paddock Club to elevate the fan experience.

Jenkins initially had no intention of taking over the chair position of the DCC. Garfinkle had asked, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to take that on. Then, in October 2022, a few months after her husband’s death, she said she got a sign while at Coastal Community Church in Parkland, where she received tremendous support from Pastor PJ McCormack and his wife, Shayla. The pastor’s wife gave a sermon that day saying if God keeps bringing things into your path, maybe you should say yes.

Within 30 minutes of that sermon, Garfinkel called again asking if she would like to take over Jason’s position with the DCC. She accepted, and it was exactly what she needed. She had a background in sports, having previously worked in marketing for the Florida Panthers and the NFL, so it was a perfect fit. Although she said the Dolphins organization already felt like family, taking on this role allows her and her children, Liya, Aiden, and Sloane to feel an even bigger connection with the Dolphins organization.

It also gives her a chance to fulfill her husband’s mission of giving back to the community. Jason Jenkins was a beacon in the community and touched lives all over South Florida.

Jason Jenkins, a Miami Dolphins executive, died at age 47.
Jason Jenkins, a Miami Dolphins executive, died at age 47.

“I wouldn’t say this job helped me process my grief, but it gave me a little bit of a path to walk down and stay close in line to what Jason was doing and his legacy is always on top of my mind, of what he wanted to accomplish,” Jenkins said. “And I wanted to keep that legacy alive.”

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