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Marking a quarter of a century of helping families tackling childhood cancer and celebrating our team of supporters.


2020 marks 25 years of the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation helping families tackle childhood cancer in the memory and spirit of the late Boston College safety, Jay McGillis. No one fights this disease alone; it takes a team. We are so grateful for the many supporters who have helped us BE THERE for families so they can BE THERE for their sick child.

For a quarter of a century, the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation has been helping families by keeping a roof over their heads; food on the table; gas in the tank; the lights on; and so much more. We never could have done any of this without our team. Please join us throughout the year as we celebrate and place a spotlight on the individuals and organizations who have helped make Jay’s legacy a reality.

#ThisIsOurTeam

Kacey

Kacey

Jeremy had spent almost 11 years serving his country in the U.S. Army. He was a tough guy who had seen his fair share of battles, but nothing could prepare him when the doctors told him his little girl had cancer. “From a war fighter’s perspective, the hardest thing in the world is when you can’t protect someone from something,” explained Jeremy as he choked back tears. “And when Kacey was diagnosed with cancer, it broke me because I knew I couldn’t protect her from this.”

Kacey was five-years-old entering the homestretch of Kindergarten when she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a bone cancer. Shortly after the family received the news, Kacey and her mom, Krista, moved into the hospital where Kacey endured over two months of harsh chemotherapy. In the fall, instead of starting first grade, Kacey underwent an amputation surgery called Rotationpasty. This surgery involved the removal of the tumor and knee to turn the remaining healthy leg backwards and reattach it. Her ankle is now her new knee and a prosthetic leg serves as a visible warrior badge of courage.

During Kacey’s family’s cancer journey, they met the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation. The foundation was able to BE THERE for the family financially so mom and dad could be there for Kacey. Jeremy’s voice is filled with gratitude as he describes the impact of having the Jay Fund on his daughter’s team, “We have been able to stay under our roof, together as a family, and keep an outstanding credit score because of the financial assistance from the Jay Fund. The foundation has been there for us through the good and the bad, and they continue to be there for us to this day.”

Kacey is now almost five and a half years out of treatment and no challenge is too big for this young lady. Her smile and zest for life inspires the foundation’s staff every time Kacey and her family come out to one of the Jay Fund’s family outings, and she knows the Jay Fund will always be cheering her on.

 

Blake

Blake

When I was 7 years old, is when it all happened. Got diagnosed with cancer. Funny how stuff happen. Thought it was the end; couldn’t cope, then I made a friend; he gave me hope,” raps now 19-year-old cancer-free and confident Blake Herndon.

Blake has a lot to rap about. He has been diagnosed with cancer three times: in 2007, 2010, and 2014, respectively. “I remember how much time I spent in the hospital room that first time. My mom and everyone always trying to make me feel good.”

One place where Blake did get to have fun was at a summer camp for children with serious illnesses that is sponsored in partnership with the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation. Blake’s face lights up like a kid when he recalls the fun he had and the friendships he made: “Boggy Creek is the best thing that any kid that has cancer could do during the summer. You meet amazing friends that understand what you’re going through and at that age, really, no one knows what you’re going through unless you’ve been through it.”

Blake attended this camp every year with the exception of 2014 when doctors determined he needed to undergo a bone marrow transplant. Blake’s incredible faith and determination are a hallmark of his character, and he is quick to express his gratitude to the foundation: “The Jay Fund has helped me forget about cancer, which is the best thing you can have when facing it. But, most importantly, the Jay Fund was there for my parents financially when they needed help the most.”

The foundation has helped over 5,000 families just like Blake’s keep a roof over their head, food on the table, gas in the tank, the lights on, and so much more over the past 25 years.

Blake is pursuing his education while developing his music talent. Last year, he was invited to perform an original rap song at the foundation’s annual Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Celebrity Golf Classic tournament and returned for an encore performance at this year’s Virtual Celebrity Gala in May. “I now see life through a bigger lens, and all I want to do is help people,” reflects Blake. “You really don’t know how long you have on this earth, so living every day is the greatest gift. If I could say one thing to Jay McGillis’s mom, it would be, ‘Thank you. Jay is not forgotten and your family is an inspiration.’”

Click here to view Blake’s inspirational performance at the 2020 Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Virtual Celebrity Gala!

 

Elizabeth

Elizabeth

Elizabeth at the 2019 Jay Fund Holiday Party

At three-years-old, Elizabeth was always dancing. But her parents became concerned about a constant leg pain their daughter was experiencing. After months of testing, Elizabeth underwent a bone marrow aspiration. A few days later, on the evening of May 13, 2010, her doctors called to inform her parents that Elizabeth had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

“It just took our breath away. You really don’t know what to think,” said Brooke, Elizabeth’s mom.

Frank, Elizabeth’s dad, echoed Brooke’s sentiment as he recalled how he felt when he heard his daughter’s diagnosis: “Hearing the words ‘your daughter has cancer’ is truly something no one can be prepared for.”

Elizabeth would begin treatment with spinal, IV, and oral chemotherapy. She received 18 blood transfusions, stayed at Wolfson Children’s Hospital multiple times, and ultimately finished treatment in a little over two and a half years.

It was a year into Elizabeth’s treatment when Brooke and Frank realized they needed financial assistance.

“Cancer comes with a lot of ups and downs, a lot of stress, and a lot of unknowns,” offered Brooke. “One thing I do know is if the Jay Fund didn’t exist, I don’t think our family would have gotten through this. The Jay Fund is like a safety net helping people through their journey, and, truthfully, helping family units stay together.”

“It seems like every time we hit a really low point in our life, the Jay Fund was always there to help pick us back up, financially and emotionally,” continued a grateful Brooke. Elizabeth and her family have been part of many of the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation’s events, which provide quality family time, as well as opportunities to connect with other families going through similar journeys.

Elizabeth’s treatment did cause a small amount of brain damage that has created some learning challenges. Elizabeth is a serious dancer, but because of cancer, it takes her twice as long to learn new dance routines as the other girls in her class. Her mom says it never stops Elizabeth from being the best she can be.

Austin

Austin

Austin is a creative, fun-loving, and athletic eleven-year-old. He loves swimming, LEGOS, playing chess, the New York Giants, and Captain America. Austin’s infectious giggles bring smiles to the faces of anyone he is around.

But in 2017, when Austin was just eight, there were no smiles as his doctor delivered the four words no family wants to hear: Your child has cancer.

“The day Austin was diagnosed with cancer was a very rough day,” said Radley, Austin’s dad. “Even though we had some inkling that something serious was wrong, we were still not prepared for the messaging.” On July 31, 2017, Austin underwent a biopsy and the results confirmed his preliminary diagnosis: Osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer.

“The hardest part was understanding it all because there is so much to take in at first,” continued Radley. Austin began treatment mid-August 2017 and finished around mid-April 2018. His treatments included in-patient chemo where he stayed at the hospital for a week.

About halfway through treatment, Austin went into a seven-hour surgery to remove his tumor. During this surgery, his leg was reconstructed with a metal implant. After surgery, Austin had to attend regular physical therapy to regain his mobility. His one goal during this time was to spend Thanksgiving with his family, and he did! Austin is now finished with treatment and visits his doctors quarterly to monitor his progress and adjust his leg’s length as he continues to grow. All in all, Austin is doing wonderful.

Cancer has significantly changed Austin’s life. As a result of his treatment, Austin is not allowed to participate in any impact activities and is exempt from gym class. Initially, these changes were devastating for him because Austin loves to run around school with his friends. But Austin isn’t one to let a challenge hold him back. He swims competitively with his club swim team, and has learned to accept his restrictions and focus on trying new activities.

The Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation has been an important member of Austin and his family’s team throughout Austin’s treatment and recovery. The foundation has been able to provide for his family financially, assisting with grocery bills and living expenses. But even more important to Austin and his family are the opportunities to spend time together. “For us, the Jay Fund means the ability to BE THERE for our son during his treatments and BE THERE as a family to celebrate our time together,” said Radley. “If the Jay Fund didn’t exist, it would have been more challenging for us to be there for Austin’s treatments and also meet the needs of our other children.”

If Austin and his family could say one thing to Mrs. McGillis, it would be a huge thank you for helping the Jay Fund come to life. “Jay’s memory and legacy lives on in the children and families the Jay Fund touches every day, and for this our family will be forever grateful.”

Rudy

Rudy

My stomach was in a knot as my mom stared in shock at the bruises that covered my entire body. But the pain I was experiencing was nothing in comparison to the anxiety and tension in her voice when she called my dad. It still reverberates in my ears when I think about it.  We picked up my dad from work and rushed to Wolfson’s Children Hospital. We had barely made it through the main entrance before I collapsed and lost consciousness. When I awoke it was to the sound of the steady beat of a heart machine and three blurry figures talking about my condition. I soon discovered I had acute lymphoblastic leukemia. While there was probably enough drama during this time to create a script for a Hollywood doctor drama, I’ll give you the short synopsis. After enduring years of intensive chemotherapy, cranial radiation, and many hospital stays, I was able to make a full recovery. But becoming cancer free wasn’t the end of my journey, but rather just the beginning.

The care and love I had received inspired me, including the support my family received from Coach Coughlin and his nonprofit. When I was offered an internship with the Jay Fund, I jumped at it. I wanted to be a part of raising awareness, creating a metrics program, establishing relationships with families, and helping kids tackling cancer enjoy life to the fullest. I had personally witnessed the emotional and financial impact cancer had on these families and wanted to inspire hope during their journeys. It was an amazing experience to be on the giving support side of the equation. Being with these families, day in and day out, ultimately led me to the decision to go to medical school.

Medical school has been filled with challenges, but also incredible and humbling rewards, including the opportunity to gain unique insights into the lives of families facing a cancer diagnosis. One of the most valuable aspects I witnessed during my time in pediatrics is the empathy shown by the hematologist/oncologist physicians toward families that are facing the unthinkable. These medical professionals really care about their patients and share in the victories, challenges, and sadly, sometimes the defeats their patients face.

On March 20th, 2020, I received news that I matched into University of Florida’s Jacksonville pediatric residency program and will spend the next three years training at Wolfson’s. As I said, becoming cancer free was just the beginning of my story. What I will be able to give back to the medical staff and families who inspire me will write the next chapter.

 

 

Michelle

Michelle

When asked what she recalls about the day her son Marlon (MJ) was diagnosed with cancer, Michelle McGriff is quick to respond, “I remember that day clearly. He went to church with his father that Sunday morning. When he returned, he had red dots all over his body. I brought him to Wolfson Children’s Hospital to get bloodwork done on New Year’s Eve. We stayed in the hospital that night, and Marlon was diagnosed with cancer that morning.”

When Marlon was originally diagnosed in 2006 the doctors gave him an 80 percent chance of survival. The family was optimistic. He had no side effects when he started treatment, and Marlon was very fortunate because his plan was very manageable.

Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse when Marlon relapsed during chemo and his treatment became more aggressive. After a fourth relapse, the doctors, sadly, couldn’t do anymore.

Marlon lived nine months after his fourth diagnosis. During that short stretch of time, he went back to school and made it to another birthday. He proudly tested as a gifted student. Marlon was just seven-years-old when he passed away on September 13, 2008. “We tried to live as normal as possible, and we honestly were able to do just that,” said Michelle in reflection.

“The Jay Fund meant support to my family and I,” Michelle said. “It gave us our dignity; it relieved us of unnecessary stress that was not needed during these times. I am a very proud woman and I like to do things for myself. When I went to the Jay Fund though, there were no questions, they just chose to be there.” Today Michelle honors her son’s legacy as an ambassador for the foundation, offering her love and support to families going through the unthinkable.

 

 

Natalie

Natalie

Before Natalie’s parents could even question what the future for their daughter would look like, Natalie had lost her hair, been placed on a morphine pump, and stopped talking due to the immense pain she was experiencing. Natalie was just two years old when she was diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma.

“We thought Natalie just had the flu, but the next thing I knew they were talking about chemotherapy and surgery,” said Deborah, Natalie’s mom. “Everything went so fast; I couldn’t wrap my head around anything.”

For the year following her diagnosis, Wolfson Children’s Hospital became Natalie’s home away from home. She spent over 70 days in a hospital room – 30 of which were spent in isolation – and she couldn’t have any visits from friends or family. Over the course of treatment, Natalie underwent four spinal taps, five rounds of chemotherapy, seven CAT scans, seven X-Rays, and was put under anesthesia 16 times.

Cancer is expensive, but Natalie’s parents found a friend and the financial assistance they needed in the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation. “The Jay Fund allowed us to focus on helping Natalie and not worry about the bills, food, or gas for our cars,” said Deborah. It also ensured Chris and Deborah’s credit would remain intact, and they stayed safely in their home throughout it all.

In December 2013, they were able to sell their starter home and purchase their forever home they hoped for. “My husband and I both realized without the help from the Jay Fund during Natalie’s treatment, we would not have been approved for the house we both dreamed of,” said Deborah.

But even more important, almost nine years later, Natalie is thriving and living her best life. Natalie and her family said that if Jay were here today, or if they could speak to Mrs. McGillis, they would first give them both a hug. They would then tell Mrs. McGillis, “Jay’s battle has made hundreds of other families tackling this disease a little less stressful, and we thank you for allowing Jay’s legacy to live on.”

 

 

Sam and Eli

Sam and Eli

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

 

 

How You Can Join the Jay Fund Team


1. Be an MVP for a child and her family to help keep their lights on, gas in their tank, and a roof over their head. MAKE A GIFT NOW. No dollar amount is too small.

2. Be a part of our patients’ cheering section during their cancer journey by following us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter @tcjayfund.

3. Join our huddle – everyone needs a team, especially those fighting cancer. Find out how to become an Impact Player by hosting a third party fundraiser/awareness event.