How a Super Bowl-Winning Football Coach Is Teaming with Celebrities to Tackle Childhood Cancer

Tom Coughlin launched the Jay Fund in 1996 in honor of Jay McGillis, who played football under him at Boston College and died of leukemia at age 21

Tom Coughlin.

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month — and a charity dedicated to combating the disease is using music to empower and inspire young patients.

The Tom Coughlin Jay Fund, the organization founded by Coughlin, the two-time Super Bowl-winning champion coach of the New York Giants, paired young patients and survivors with celebrities and athletes. The result? A series of playlists that reflect an eclectic blend of musical tastes and speak to the healing power of music.

The playlists will be available on Amazon Music Unlimited throughout September. Among the celebrities participating are Today co-hosts Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager, two-time U.S. Women's World Cup-winning coach Jill Ellis, actor Craig Robinson from Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Office, the Grammy Award-winning duo The Chainsmokers, and two of Coughlin's former players — Kevin Boothe and Mark Herzlich, the latter of whom is a cancer survivor.

(Beautiful, inspiring videos of Kotb and Bush with cancer survivor Camilla can be viewed toward the bottom of this article.)

"I am so grateful that so many celebrities and athletes took time to create these playlists with our cancer patients and cancer survivors," said Coughlin, whose New York Giants beat the New England Patriots to win Super Bowls in both the 2007 and 2011 seasons. "No one fights cancer alone; it takes a team, and I want to thank Amazon Music and all of those involved for being a part of ours."

Hoda Kotb, Jenna Hager
Jenna Bush Hager (L) and Hoda Kotb.
Christopher Patey/Getty
Craig Robinson. Christopher Patey/Getty
Jill Ellis
Jill Ellis.

According to the CDC, approximately 15,000 people under the age of 20 are diagnosed with cancer each year, or about 43 a day. Cancer does not discriminate. Its impact is felt in every community across the U.S., leaving a devastating emotional and financial toll on the families dealing with the disease.

To meet this need, Coughlin launched the Jay Fund in 1996 — named after a player he coached in Boston College, Jay McGillis, who died of who died of leukemia at age 21. Coughlin saw first-hand the extraordinary sacrifices McGillis family made after Jay got sick — and he resolved to do something about it.

Tom Coughlin and Jay McGillis. Courtesy Boston College

Since its inception, the Jay Fund has supported more than 5,000 families of young people battling cancer, providing more than $15 million in aid.

In a 2019 interview with PEOPLE, Coughlin, citing the National Children's Cancer Society, said dealing with childhood cancer costs families an average of $833,000, taking into account medical costs and lost wages. "Can you imagine how a regular family can handle that?" he said.

The inspiration for the playlists stems from research showing that music can reduce stress and anxiety by positively shifting people's moods. Music therapy is a time-tested technique to boost the emotional well-being of cancer patients.

"Music helps patients bond socially, emotionally, and with other patients," Lee Russeth, MS, CCLS, Senior Child Life Specialist at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, said in a press release.

Russeth added: "In an environment where patients can often have few decisions, with music they can choose which instrument to play, sing, dance, or just sit back and listen. They are free to express their emotions, while alleviating their pain. And, it's so important to remember, music is also for fun! It's the normalizing factor that helps them get through their treatment."

For more information or to learn more about the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation visit and follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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