Young Man with Cancer Always Wanted to Work in Pizzeria, Fulfills Dream 2 Weeks Before Tragic Death

Wesley Beco and his family teamed up with the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund, which provides financial and emotional support to families of young people afflicted with cancer

Wesley Beco
Photo: Jodi Crandell

Like many people from New Jersey, Wesley Beco loved pizza — in his case, he loved it so much that he'd always wanted to work in a pizzeria.

Before the summer of 2020, Wesley had planned to apply to a summer job at his favorite pizzeria, Sam's Pizza in Paterson. But that July, tragedy struck when he was diagnosed with a germ cell tumor. The disease progressed rapidly. In June of 2021, Wesley died at age 22.

Two weeks before his passing, Wesley's loved ones were determined to help him fulfill his lifelong dream of working in a pizzeria. To do so, they teamed up with the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund, a charity founded by the two-time Super Bowl-winning coach that provides financial and emotional support to families of young cancer patients.

For one day last summer, Wesley joined the staff at Sam's Pizza, whose owner, Mohamad Abushaar, schooled Wesley on the finer points of the craft like opening the dough, spreading the sauce evenly and sprinkling on the cheese. According to a Jay Fund press release, Wesley was precise and methodical in every aspect of his life — qualities that lend themselves to making pizza, where the proportions have to be exact.

Abushaar tells PEOPLE that Wesley's shift happened to coincinde with a very busy day — including a lunch hour in which a customer ordered 10 pizzas. Wesley's positive energy calmed everyone down, Abushaar says.

Wesley Beco
Wesley Beco. Jodi Crandell

"He was really pleasant to work with," Abushaar tells PEOPLE. "He was very excited to learn. It was a happy day — you could see it in his eyes."

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In a video shared by the Jay Fund, Shannon Heffernan, Wesley's social worker at St. Joseph's University Medical Center in Paterson, said, "I think he's thrilled. This is just a long time coming and something he's been dreaming about for a while."

The Jay Fund was founded in 1996, and since then, it has provided approximately $15 million to more than 5,000 families with children suffering from cancer in the New York City and Jacksonville, Florida areas, where Coughlin coached the NFL's New York Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars.

Wesley Beco
Wesley Beco. Jodi Crandell

The organization's guiding belief is that the sacrifices made by families of children with cancer are extraordinary — and often overlooked. In a 2019 interview with PEOPLE, Coughlin, citing the National Children's Cancer Society, said dealing with childhood cancer cost a family an average of $833,000, taking into account medical costs and lost wages. "Can you imagine how a regular family can handle that?" Coughlin said at the time.

The charity is named after Jay McGillis, a college football player who played under Coughlin when he coached Boston College in the early 1990s. Before McGillis died of leukemia in 1992, Coughlin saw the emotional and financial toll the cancer diagnosis took on McGillis' loved ones — and became determined to help families in that situation.

Wesley's parents — mother Ana Sanchez and father William Beco — were present at Sam's for his shift. Summing up the day, Sanchez, in the Jay Fund video, said, "It's very special to make my son's dream come true."

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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