By Lisa Marie Latino
Earlier this week, Tom Coughlin stepped down as head coach of the New York Giants after an illustrious twelve seasons. While his storybook tenure spawned two Super Bowl victories, the successes of the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation are on par with his Vince Lombardi Trophies.
The purpose of The Jay Fund is to provide financial, emotional and practical support to families stricken by childhood cancer, and they have helped thousands of families in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area.
During Coach Coughlin’s emotional exit press conference, he vowed to continue the mission of his “other love in life” by dedicating himself to The Jay Fund’s #BeThere campaign. The movement, which vowed to raise $10 million, has raised $6 million thus far.
“I made the pledge [and] we’re going to get it done, [even] if I have to walk the streets of New York. We will get it done,” Coach Coughlin promised.
Walking right next to him would be Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich— a Jay Fund board member and cancer survivor– along with his wife, Danielle. Recently, Danielle Herzlich and some of the wives and fiancés of other Giants players paid a visit to The Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center in the giving spirit of #BeThere. We chatted with her about the event, her connection to The Jay Fund, and her thoughts on the departing head coach.
LML: The hospital visit sounded like a wonderful way to celebrate the holidays! Tell me all about it.
DH: It really was a blast! Pilar Amukamara [wife of Prince Amukamara], Carolyn Williams [wife of Andre Williams], Nahall Fells [wife of Daniel Fells], Maddie Paolantonio [fiancé of Ryan Nassib] and I had so much fun with the kids. We went room-to-room handing out special holiday packages that included Giants gear and Jay Fund Foundation swag. We also spent a lot of time in the playroom doing arts and crafts! The kids and the parents were so grateful that we were there. Being able to see them smile and help them get through their chemotherapy was awesome.
LML: You were the one to “rally the troops” for the hospital visit. Why was this so important to you?
DH: Mark is on the board of The Jay Fund, and we’ve done tons of work with the charity in previous years. When Lynn Chwatsky [NY/NJ managing director of The Jay Fund] and Karen Hart [communications consultant for The Jay Fund] contacted me about doing something with the wives, my answer was absolutely! I thought about how great it would be to interact with the kids and give them a little bit of joy, especially during the holiday season.
LML: Did you have a deeper connection with the families because of Mark’s history with cancer?
DH: I feel like everyone has had a family member or friend battle cancer. Since Mark is my husband it obviously hits very close to home. Knowing what it was like being his caregiver at the time made me really relate to the parents. I couldn’t even imagine watching your child go through something that heartbreaking. I applaud and respect them so much for what they do for their kids and also what The Jay Fund does for the entire family. If it wasn’t for organizations like The Jay Fund, Mark wouldn’t have been able to get through what he went through.
LML: Can you reflect on you and Mark’s relationship with Coach Coughlin in relation to The Jay Fund?
DH: Even with being a head coach, I feel like it was extremely known that The Jay Fund was Coach Coughlin’s other main priority. I think it’s really cool that he provided something like this for Mark and I and the entire Giants family to give back. I love that we are part of something that’s so much bigger than football. To be able to help people through this first-class organization has been an amazing experience. And despite Coach no longer being at the helm, I don’t see our relationship ever changing.
For more information on the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund, visit TCJayFund.org.