As the former head coach of the New York Giants, Tom Coughlin has battled his share of tough opponents, but none that compare to childhood cancer. When the disease hit close to home in the 1990s, Coughlin took action, creating the Jay Fund Foundation.

FUNDING SURVIVAL: After the loss of one of his players, Jay McGillis, to leukemia, Tom Coughlin created the Jay Fund Foundation to raise money for children fighting cancer. Photos: Jenn Hopkins

The story behind the fight

“During my first year coaching at Boston College, there was a young man playing for me by the name of Jay McGillis,” Coughlin explains. “He worked hard, played hard. He was a great kid. We were all shocked when he was diagnosed with leukemia. Watching Jay and the McGillis family fight the unthinkable was both heartbreaking and inspiring.

“The Boston College community was united in Jay’s fight. We raised $50,000 to help with the expenses, visited him at the hospital and at home. When Jay passed, my wife, Judy, and I made a promise that if we were ever in a position to help families in similar situations, we would. When I landed my position with the Jacksonville Jaguars, we started our foundation, the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund. Today, we're helping families in the New York/New Jersey metro area, as well as Jacksonville, Florida.

OVERCOMING EXPENSES: The Jay Fund, which has seen an increase in the need for financial assistance and cancer diagnosis, has also seen an increase in the amount of money they've raised for parents.

A financial toll

When a youngster is diagnosed with cancer, the medical bills can be overwhelming as two-income households often shrink to one.

“At the Jay Fund, we’ve seen a trend in the increase for need. This past year, we dispersed in grants and allocated expenses nearly $1.5 million, up 14 percent from the previous year.

“When Judy and I talk to parents, they're grateful for the immediate help with their finances, but are even more excited about the financial coach we provide.”

ALL SMILES: Tomn and Judy Coughlin meet Karter, a recipient of support through the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund, while attending a Valentine's Day Party at St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center.

A team effort

Coughlin says players he's worked with have been extremely supportive of the Jay Fund.

“Whether they're attending our annual Champions for Children gala, visiting hospitals on our behalf, or participating in the Giants Tour and Sundae Blitz, members of both the New York Giants and the Jacksonville Jaguars have always stepped forward and volunteered their time.”

The Sundae Blitz annual ice cream party at the team's training facility is but one example of how Coughlin and his foundation are giving back.

Adds Coughlin, “Our goal is simple. It's to be there for families in the trenches and provide the financial, emotional and practical support that's essential to ease the stress for the family, so they can focus on the child who is sick.”