An interview with one of the all time greatest coaches
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Once you do, you not only lighten your load, but you allow people who really want to help to do just that.”
Former Giants Coach, Tom Coughlin
Denise had the great privilege of interviewing former Giants Coach, Tom Coughlin about his lifelong involvement in cancer and his foundation, the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation. Below is the interview and information on how his foundation can help those impacted by pediatric cancer.
The Jay Fund, the nonprofit organization of 2X Super Bowl winning head coach Tom Coughlin, was established in 1996 in the memory and spirit of the late Boston College football player, Jay McGillis, who lost his battle with leukemia. From diagnosis to recovery and beyond, the Jay Fund is part of the team, allowing parents to focus solely on their child’s well-being.
The mission is to BE THERE for parents facing the unthinkable so they can BE THERE for their child.
What you have done is exactly a Cancer Family. Can you tell us why from what you experienced with Jay, and now others, a cancer family is so critical when tackling the emotional, physical, and financial aspects of a cancer diagnosis?
A cancer diagnosis affects the whole family – emotionally, financially, and physically. In 1991, we saw this firsthand when Jay McGillis, the inspiration for the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation, was told he had cancer. Jay played safety for the Eagles when I was head coach for Boston College’s football team. He worked hard, was a great teammate and friend, and always tried to be his best.
Cancer is both expensive and exhausting. It can take a heavy toll on everyone involved. When the team and I learned of Jay’s illness, we had that very human reaction of wanting to help. The McGillis family was part of our community and all of Brockton wanted to show their support. His teammates started a Liftathon and raised $50,000 to help the McGillis family with their medical bills. I made almost daily visits to the hospital to sit and talk to Jay. I would like to think I was encouraging him, but maybe it was the other way around. His sister came home from law school to care for him. We were all hoping for a miracle, but unfortunately, Jay’s battle didn’t have the happy ending we prayed for.
But Jay’s battle and death had a silver lining. It united so many people, and inspired me, Judy, and our kids to help others going through the same thing. To date, the Jay Fund has helped over 5,000 families tackling pediatric cancer and provided over $16 million in financial support.
How do you create a “family” for all of the families going through a cancer journey?
No one fights cancer alone. It takes a team. Who is part of that team? It’s your family and friends, doctors and nurses, child life specialists, social workers, teachers, neighbors, and more often than not, people you don’t know and might never meet who are donating money and time to support organizations, GoFundMe pages, and offering up prayers and words of encouragement.
Your fund helps families in many ways, household expenses, financial coaching, sibling support, children are eligible for college scholarships, and so much more – can you share specific stories of children and families who have benefitted?
There are so many wonderful young people who have become part of the Jay Fund family over the years. One story that sticks out to me is about a young man named Rudy Wells. Rudy had cancer as a young boy. We were able to support his family financially and emotionally during his cancer journey. He ended up becoming a scholarship recipient turned Jay Fund intern turned medical student. Today, Rudy is studying to become an oncologist and hopes to practice at the same hospital where he was treated. That’s a story with the kind of happy ending we love and hope for. Unfortunately, every cancer journey doesn’t end that way and the foundation is there for families in those dark hours, too.
Do you have any “Coach” advice for families going through this?
I would tell families not to be afraid to ask for help. Once you do, you not only lighten your load, but you allow people who really want to help to do just that.
For those on the sidelines, I would encourage you to get in the game. Offer to make dinner, buy groceries, pick-up kids from school and after-school activities. Donate to organizations in the cancer space who are working directly with hospitals and patients. Whatever you can do to help, do it.
How do you feel to be able to help so many people in this way off the field?
It’s a privilege to be able to help so many families. This is Jay’s legacy and he would be proud. He would also tell us there is always more work to be done.
Do any of your former players get involved and help with the families?
Players from both the New York Giants and the Jacksonville Jaguars have come to events, made donations, visited with families, and provided encouragement over the years. It’s a long list, and I don’t want to leave anyone out. But the extensive network of alumni players has been nothing but generous with their time and talents. It’s truly humbling. I can never say thank you enough.
Have you been on a cancer journey with a child?
Do you know someone going through this right now?
If so, the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation is the team you may need to help you get through (and you don’t even have to root for The Giants 🙂
The foundation helps keep families in their homes, food on the table, the lights on, and so much more when a family is tackling childhood cancer by providing comprehensive financial, emotional, and practical support. The Jay Fund, the nonprofit organization of 2X Super Bowl winning head coach Tom Coughlin, was established in 1996 in the memory and spirit of the late Boston College football player, Jay McGillis, who lost his battle with leukemia. From diagnosis to recovery and beyond, the Jay Fund is part of the team, allowing parents to focus solely on their child’s well-being. The mission is to BE THERE for parents facing the unthinkable so they can BE THERE for their child.