Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Coughlin Party Honors Children; Giants Coach Returns to City to Host Kids with Experience Fighting Cancer

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Coughlin Party Honors Children; Giants Coach Returns to City to Host Kids with Experience Fighting Cancer

Article excerpt

Byline: KEN LEWIS, The Times-Union

Twelve-year-old Austin Webb stared at the floor, thinking about what to say.

Dozens of kids and volunteers frolicked around him Sunday afternoon at the Museum of Science and History in downtown Jacksonville. The Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation was hosting its annual Valentine's Day party for children with cancer.

"They have fun parties like this," said Austin, who had leukemia for two years and has been off treatment for another two. He doesn't mind talking about his illness or the organization that helps him fight it, but he clearly struggled to find words.

Children who have seen life at its most difficult looked innocent and care-free at the Jay Fund party. They were part of the 100 families that the Jay Fund helps each year. Now in its 10th year, the organization raises about $350,000 a year and has given families about $1 million, Executive Director Keli Coughlin said. Help has centered on things like mortgage payments for struggling families, medical bills and social activities for the children.

New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin, former coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, mingled at the event and posed for pictures with the children.

"The intent is to bring our children together, the Jay Fund kids, and watch them smile," Coughlin said. "One of the most enjoyable parts is watching the youngsters . . . as they make progress. It's a wonderful thing to see the kids on a regular basis."

He named the organization in honor of Jay McGillis, who played football at Boston College under Coughlin. McGillis started in 10 games, became ill just before his 11th and died six months later.

"The courage, the dignity, the way in which Jay lived his life . . . just set such a profound example for all of us that knew him," Coughlin said.

Families were deeply appreciative of the help Sunday. Austin Webb's mother, Kim Webb, said her son had the chance to meet with several players of the Jacksonville Jaguars before Coughlin moved to New York. …

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