On July 1, 2011, our youngest son Samuel was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Before I continue, I would like to give you a little back story about our family. My husband, Rick and I, are life long, diehard Giants fans. Our oldest son, Eli, was named after Eli Manning, and we found out I was pregnant with Sam the day the Giants won the Super Bowl in 2008! Our kids, from the start, were destined to follow our lead. Our house bleeds blue.
The fall and winter of 2011/2012 was rough for us. Sam was really sick. He was the poster child for childhood cancer. Bald and pale, but still the happiest most joyful three- year-old to be around. He was a champ. He took everything that was thrown at him with the strength of Godzilla. Godzilla was and still is his favorite. A friend had suggested I reach out to the Jay Fund. A foundation run by, in our opinion, the best coach to grace the Giants organization. Tom Coughlin.
I sent an email thinking they probably couldn’t assist us financially. A woman by the name of Keli reached out to me. I’m not sure when it was, but at some point, I realized the woman that I was communicating with was Coach Coughlin’s daughter.
I still go back to some of the emails she sent. The communication was a bright light in a very dark time. She sent coloring books, a hat signed by her dad, car magnets. You name it! Anything to make the kids smile. That meant the world to us.
We were even asked to go to their ice cream social at the Giants practice facility where I finally got to meet the person and the people of an organization that was so incredibly kind to our family. We met some of the Giants team and even got to meet Coach Coughlin and his lovely wife Judy.
A few weeks after the ice cream social, Keli had reached out asking if the Jay Fund could use a picture I had sent her of my boys. The picture was pretty symbolic of Eli and Sam. Eli was a vital piece in Sam’s battle with cancer. Eli hated when Sam wasn’t well and worried more than any small child should ever have to. I had asked my friend Juliet Salzman to take some pictures of the boys earlier that year in the spring. One of the pictures she took resonated with many, including Keli and the people at the foundation. The picture spoke for itself. No One Fights Alone. The capes, the mask, two brothers in it together.
The picture ended up being part of the Champions for Children Gala campaign that year. Rick and I attended the gala and were beside ourselves when we saw the picture of our two beautiful boys on the invitation and the gala program. It is absolutely amazing what a picture can do.
When a child is diagnosed with cancer, your world goes dark. The darkest dark you could ever imagine. Your entire world crumbles. You are brought to your knees, literally and figuratively. As a parent you look for any glimmer of hope, any sliver of light that will begin to pierce through that consuming darkness. The Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation and the Coughlin’s were part of that light for us. We are forever grateful for their generosity and kindness.
Sam is 11 now. Cancer free. Five years off treatment, so in the childhood cancer world, we were able to say that he is finally cured this year. The Jay Fund promises to BE THERE for families facing a childhood cancer diagnosis. So, from the Grady Bunch: Thank you for BEING THERE. ~Rick, Pauline, Eli and Sam