Keli Coughlin Joyce ‘08 is the Executive Director of the
Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation. The mission of the
Foundation is to “help families tackle childhood cancer
by providing comprehensive financial, emotional and
practical support.” Since 1996, the Jay Fund has helped
thousands of families and distributed over $9.8 million
Keli shared insights about her work at the Jay Fund,
promoting emerging philanthropic passions in children
at home, and how you know when a philanthropic
investment has been successful with Caroline Brinton
Q: What do you do in your daily life?
A: I feel very blessed to be the Executive Director of the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund. My role allows me to impact the lives of families tackling childhood cancer in the Jacksonville area every day. I also have the opportunity to interact and work with so many other positive people and partner organizations who make Jacksonville better. Recently, I also joined the Baptist Medical Center Beaches Board of Directors and I am excited to contribute and learn.
My husband and I have two daughters in grade school and my most treasured daily role is being their mom.
Q: Currently, what issues are you putting your philanthropic resources toward?
A: Most of my philanthropic resources are with the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund. I am proud to currently assist at Baptist Medical Center, my church, and my children’s school.
Q: Do you have a philanthropic mission statement or personal motto? If so, would you mind sharing?
A: I don’t think of this as a motto, but I’m fond of a quote from John Bunyan who wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress, because it really encapsulates how we strive to do our work at the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation. The quote is: “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” Each day at the Jay Fund we seek to be a blessing in the lives of those patients and families who need it most, whether it be providing emotional support or financial support.
Q: What do you like most about living in Northeast Florida?
A: The opportunities to get involved in the community are countless. I believe the small town feel of this big city is unique. The people of this area make it really special. I grew up moving quite a bit, but this is the first place that I have really felt a sense of “home”.
Q: What challenges concern you most about Northeast Florida?
A: For this area and beyond I am most concerned about each of us valuing and respecting each other. It is at the core of so many issues.
Q: What is a lesson you’ve learned about building a stronger community?
A: I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned in building a stronger community is that you have to provide people the opportunity to help. At the end of the day, we all want to feel needed and that we’ve contributed. We want to feel connected to each other and when there is an opportunity to help, people step up.
Q: How have you engaged with your family in strengthening our community?
A: My parents taught me from a young age to help where you can. My husband and I try to pass that on to our children by asking them to be good neighbors and friends. Without a doubt, the most significant thing my family has done to strengthen our community was in 1996 when my parents, Tom & Judy Coughlin, founded the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund. The work of the Jay Fund has become a central focus for our family. My siblings actively participate on our Boards and their children volunteer at Jay Fund events. We don’t do the work alone though; the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation would not be what it is without the Jacksonville community. They are the MVP of our team and have rallied to help us provide over $9 million in financial support to over 4,000 families. The Jacksonville families who are supported by the Jay Fund go to school with our kids, they are on sports teams together, they play together. Our community wants to help them. Our Foundation simply provides the opportunity for them to be a blessing in the life of our local families.
Q: Our children are nearly the same age and it is a great age to explore emerging philanthropic passions. Have your daughters developed their passions in any unique or surprising ways? What resources or activities have you found helpful in guiding them?
A: My kids have occasionally handed me a quarter while I’m on the way to work and have said, “here, give this to the kids with cancer,” which warms my heart. It is great to see them develop their own individual passions too. Last summer my neighbor was fostering a dog from an animal rescue. We ended up adopting the dog and this ignited an awareness in my nine-year-old daughter of the many dogs without homes. She has since made several donations of her own money to animal rescues and I’m very proud of her efforts.
Q: How do you decide when your philanthropic investments have been successful?
A: With each sentiment of gratitude a childhood cancer family or patient expresses, whether that be a smile or a simple thank you, I know we are successful. Outside of the Jay Fund, I give to organizations that I believe in. I feel good about what they are doing and that is a success to me.
Q: Do you have any observations about WPI’s role in philanthropic leadership?
A: I love the program because it teaches about philanthropy in a formal way and allows the opportunity to stop and think about values, interests, and tools to give effectively. Our community is better thanks to this program.