(NEW YORK) — For Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning, returning to the New York Giants’ practice facility is always special.
The two joined the legendary NFL team as head coach and quarterback, respectively, in 2004. Their 12 seasons together resulted in two Super Bowl titles and countless memories along the way.
Now, they’re teaming up, not for football, but for September’s Child Cancer Awareness Month. While cancer in children and adolescents is rare, it’s one of the leading causes of death by disease past infancy for children in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Ahead of next month, Coughlin and Manning filmed a promotional video for their campaign, themed around teamwork, urging viewers to take a selfie with people they lean on and post it with the hashtag #ShowUsYourTeam.
“When you have cancer, you’re not going through it alone, and you’re not going to beat it alone,” Manning told ABC News. “You’re going to need a team of support from your family, your friends, your community, your nurses and doctors in the hospital.”
Since 2015, Manning has partnered with Hackensack Meridian Health in New Jersey for the initiative “Tackle Childhood Cancer,” which raises money for pediatric cancer research and patient care programs. He represented the cause on the field for NFL’s “My Cause My Cleats” campaign for four seasons from 2016 to 2019. Manning’s work with the charity, in part, helped him earn the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award for 2016-17.
“It started with going to visit the children in the hospital, try to lift their spirits. And it just became, what else can I do? How else can I be helpful? How can I make a bigger impact? And now, you know, eight years later, I’ve raised over $20 million,” Manning said.
Manning credits Coughlin with being the one to inspire him to give back. While Manning’s charity work has focused on cancer research, Coughlin’s Jay Fund works on supporting families, especially with financial help.
“A form of medication may cost a family over $200,000 in one year, OK? And you think about, 87% of families find that their income is depleted,” Coughlin said.
The Jay Fund is named after Jay McGillis, a former defensive back who played for Coughlin at Boston College and passed away in 1992 after a battle with leukemia.
“At that point in time, having gone through it with his family, I knew if I ever had a chance to give back, this was how I would give back,” Coughlin said.
Over three decades later, Coughlin says he still thinks of McGillis while doing this work.
Visiting with patients and families now, it’s hard not to get attached, Coughlin said.
“They’re just little guys going through something that, God forbid, you wouldn’t want anybody to go through,” Coughlin said.
Both Coughlin and Manning also know that making a difference can take many forms, including just showing up. Coughlin recalls Manning meeting with a young boy with cancer shortly before he died.
“His dad said that that was the greatest thing that ever happened to that little boy, was spending a half an hour with Eli Manning,” Coughlin said.
“I remember it. I remember it well,” Manning added. “You feel for, obviously, the kid. You feel for the families, the parents. I know how I feel when one of my kids has the flu, let alone cancer. And you want to do anything to help.”
With their latest initiative, Manning and Coughlin hope to leverage their teamwork and combined platforms to get help to those who need it.
“I think we’ll be able to have a big impact, raise a lot of awareness and continue to help more families that are dealing with cancer,” Manning said.
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