NEW YORK — The Tom Coughlin Jay Fund held its 11th Champions for Children Gala here on Friday night at Cipriani 42nd Street, hitting its $1.5 million fundraising goal, according to the organization.
The foundation was established by the Giants‘ head coach in 1996, and is a non-profit organization that works “to help families tackle childhood cancer by providing comprehensive financial, emotional and practical support,” according to its mission statement, with the goal to “be there for parents facing the unthinkable, so they can be there for their families.”
The organization serves families both in Northwest Florida (from Coughlin’s days with the Jaguars) and in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area. Coughlin’s daughter, Keli Coughlin, is the foundation’s executive director.
The inspiration for the foundation is the late Jay McGillis, who played for Coughlin at Boston College before developing leukemia, and succumbing to the disease after eight months.
“We saw firsthand, watching one of our players who got leukemia, we watched his family drop everything and run to his side,” Coughlin said before the gala. “And eventually in a very short amount of time, Jay McGillis died of leukemia. What we witnessed, and being around the family and close we became with the family, we knew that if there was going to be an opportunity to give back, we would do it in the spirit of Jay McGillis.”
It was pouring rain with strong winds the entire evening in Midtown, but that did little to curb attendance at the event, which was packed a little after 7 p.m.
“We’ve had bad weather I want to say maybe nine out of the 11 events that we’ve had,” Coughlin said, “and it doesn’t stop anybody. these people may come. they may be a minute or two late, but they come.”
Visa CEO Charles W. Scharf and Steven R. Starker, the co-founder of BTIG, were honored at the gala. Numerous current and former Giants attended the event, including quarterback Eli Manning, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and former center Shaun O’Hara. Recently retired Gen. Ray Odierno, the former Chief of Staff for the U.S. Army and a Rockaway, N.J., native was also in attendance.
“It’s phenomenal that these guys will come out and support these causes,” Coughlin said. “Deep down inside, they have a warm spot in their hearts for people in need. And these kids are in need.”