Super Bowl champ has a nice ring to it. The title of two-time Super Bowl winner puts one in rarefied air, indeed. Count New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin, a part-time Jax area resident and the Jags’ first coach, among those who can claim not one, but two, NFL titles. This month, Coughlin returns to his old stomping grounds to host his yearly wine-with-friends shindig, the 8th Annual Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation Wine Tasting Gala. The evening of March 16, Coughlin and many of his pro football compadres will gather in the lobby of the Wells Fargo Center, 1 Independent Dr., Downtown to swap stories, nosh and sip top-shelf wines. Unlike the swanky invite-only parties that accompany the Super Bowl, this fundraiser is open to the public—provided one purchases a ticket, of course.
In addition to the chance to rub shoulders with sports celebs and others, the event features a silent auction and eats served by dozens of local restaurants and more than 200 fine wines from around the world. Last year Coach Coughlin and 800 patrons, wine enthusiasts, gourmets, philanthropists and fun-loving friends helped the Jay Fund Foundation raise $200,000 for financial and emotional support of Jacksonville area families who have a child battling cancer. “This wine and food event gets better every year and is a credit to so many who help put it together,” says Coach Coughlin. “It excites me to think about how much good the Jay Fund can do with the proceeds.”
The Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation was created in 1996, in memory of Jay McGillis, a former football player at Boston College, who played under Coughlin’s tutelage. Jay’s courage and endearing compassion taught the coach a great deal about the capacity of human willpower and the importance of cherishing the gift of life. Jay was diagnosed with leukemia in November 1991, and lost his battle just eight months later, on July 3, 1992. Coughlin had the privilege of spending a great deal of time with Jay and his family, as they battled his disease together. It was during that difficult period that Coughlin witnessed not only the emotional strain this illness brought upon the McGillis family but, indeed, the financial strain, too. Coughlin vowed to create a way to help families with children battling cancer if ever he had the chance. To make a difference in these families’ lives was the driving force for the founding of the Jay Fund.
After moving to Jacksonville in 1996 when he was hired as the head coach of the NFL expansion team Jacksonville Jaguars, Coughlin realized his vision of starting a foundation in Jay’s honor that would help local families with a child suffering from leukemia and other cancers. Fundraising began with an annual celebrity golf tournament, under the guidance of Honorary Board Member, Fran Foley. As the needs in the Jacksonville community grew, so did the foundation. Coughlin’s daughter, Keli, now serves as executive director of the foundation. One of many accomplishments under Keli’s direction is a $5 million dollar endowment, created to keep the foundation funded in perpetuity in the Jacksonville community.
When Tom accepted the position of head coach for the New York Giants, he expanded the Jay Fund’s efforts to the New York metropolitan area. This opportunity allowed the organization to expand its outreach in new and exciting ways in the New York and New Jersey area, and the impact has helped countless families faced with the crisis of helping their child battle
cancer. To date, the Jay Fund has given over $3.9 million in grants to help families who have a child with cancer.
Jay’s spirit lives on in all of those who are touched by the Jay Fund. It is in his name that this foundation hopes to speed the day where no family has to suffer through such a profound tragedy.
The Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation’s 8th annual Wine Tasting Gala takes place Friday, March 16, 6-9 PM, at the Wells Fargo Center in the heart of Downtown. Tickets are $100 and may be purchased online at
tcjayfund.org or by calling (904) 543-2599. All proceeds go to help children with cancer and their families.