Coach Coughlin’s COVID and helping families tackling childhood cancer in 2020

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According to the Pew Research Center survey, since COVID-19 hit our country, a quarter of adults have had trouble paying their bills, one in three have had to break into savings or retirement to keep their households going, while one-sixth have had to borrow money or go to a food bank for food.

This may be a new normal for our population because of the pandemic but for families tackling childhood cancer, it’s a daily reality only compounded by the global health crisis.

When my family and I started the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation 25 years ago, we knew we wanted to help families financially and emotionally the way the Boston College community had helped Jay McGillis and his family.

Jay played safety for me when I was head coach of the Boston College Eagles. He was a great kid, hard-working and humble, whose cancer battle rallied his friends and teammates to help the McGillis family when they needed it most.

Jay’s battle didn’t have a happy ending, but it did inspire us to take action, along with countless people who have helped over 5,000 families they don’t know get through a disease we hope they never will know.

As a team, we’ve been able to provide over $14 million in financial assistance, keeping roofs over heads, food on the table, the lights on, and so much more.

At the peak of our COVID lockdown, we saw a 52 percent increase in requests for financial assistance.

We heard from families who felt more isolated and alone than ever before.

When we put the call out to our team, they responded the way a team is supposed to. Every single member asked, “How can I help?”

It’s humbling to know there are so many people who will always say yes when asked. And because they always say yes, we never have to say no to families when they come to us.

The Bible says, “Give thanks in all circumstances.”

When 2020 commenced, the foundation kicked off the year with gratitude for 25 years of being a blessing in the lives of others, and as December draws to a close, we would be remiss if we did not end the year with that same sentiment.

The work that we do at the Jay Fund Foundation would never be possible without all of the individuals, companies, and organizations who have stepped up, particularly this year, and gave of their time, talent, and resources.

I want to publicly thank each and every one of them. From the many coaches and athletes who helped us pivot in April to our first virtual event when we had no clue what we were doing, including Andy Reid, Jill Ellis, and Jerry Rice to our friends who announced our scholarship winners, including Craig and Lindsay Melvin, Elvis Duran and his side-kick Froggy, and Olympic swimmer Ryan Murphy, to those who stepped up to make our year-end gala a success, including the Jonas Brothers, our friends at the New York Giants, NASCAR and the PGA TOUR, and the many, many more who constantly say yes to help our families facing the unthinkable: THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts.

Because of you, the 756 families we are currently serving are able to meet their household expenses. What a relief that is when your child has cancer.

2020 was certainly not the year that many of us planned for, but it has been a year that has, at times, showed us the best of humanity, while reminding us how valuable the things are we cherish most: our loved ones, their health and well-being, and the place we call home.

As each of you puts this roller coaster of year to bed, I hope you will reflect on all the blessings you do have and ask yourself how you can be a blessing in the lives of those who are struggling.