Little Liliana Rodriguez clutched her stuffed unicorn and beamed as a group of visitors presented a delicious, healthy meal and a $200 gift card from Publix to her mom, Tiffany Rodriguez.
Liliana’s family was one of 31 Tom Coughlin Jay Fund families to receive a specially prepared meal and gift card on Saturday, Sept. 17. The Jay Fund provides financial, emotional and practical support to families tackling childhood cancer. Kindergarten-age Liliana is fighting leukemia.
Among those making the deliveries were team members and volunteers from THE PLAYERS. The meals were created by PGA TOUR Chef Director Eric Butcher and his team.
“I have a great team who came out and helped support this today, helped put everything together,” Butcher said. “We are really excited about this initiative.”
Jay Fund CEO Keli Coughlin said the nonprofit was happy to partner with THE PLAYERS and Butcher to make the deliveries possible.
“We know that prices have gone up,” she said. “It’s always challenging for families to deal with childhood cancer, regardless, but we’ve really seen an increase in need.”
She said the deliveries would mean one less thing for the families to worry about — what would be on the table that night.
Families — like Liliana’s — face not just the obvious medical costs, but hidden costs, as well. There’s regular transportation to the hospital and back, having to eat out more frequently and childcare for siblings. For that reason, about 65% of the assistance the Jay Fund provides is financial.
“Almost always when one child is diagnosed with cancer, a parent has to stop working and become a fulltime caregiver,” Coughlin said. “Often, that means there’s a decrease in their income at the same time that their costs are going up.”
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 38 million Americans, including 12 million children, experience food insecurity. At the height of the pandemic, the Jay Fund saw a 52% increase in requests from its families for emergency financial assistance.
The Rodriguez family has been working with the Jay Fund since Liliana’s diagnosis. Tiffany Rodriguez said the nonprofit’s help means a lot to them. She called the delivery on Sept. 17 “super helpful,” because it’s hard to carve out time to cook. Among other things, the family is moving into a new home and her husband, Gregory Rodriguez, who serves in the U.S. military, had been away for a period of deployment.
PLAYERS Executive Director Jared Rice said the Jay Fund was “a high priority for us.”
“THE PLAYERS Championship has been a partner with the Jay Fund for a number of years, and we just take a ton of pride in being able to support Coach Coughlin and Keli and the amazing things they do for families fighting cancer,” said Rice. “Chef Eric from the PGA TOUR had heard about our relationship and wanted to do something special. He’s an amazing chef.”
Butcher’s team had been preparing the meals over a course of three days. Each meal consisted of soup, salad, a roast chicken and strawberry vanilla bean cheesecakes. Preparing for the delivery, Butcher’s culinary staff cooked about 70 chickens and 100 pounds of mashed potatoes.
The Jay Fund is always looking for volunteers who want to help. For further information, go to tcjayfund.org.
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