SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - In 2000, after a former batboy on his son’s all-star baseball team was diagnosed with leukemia, South Plainfield resident Tom McCreesh knew he had to do something to help the family.
“I went to visit him at the hospital and left with a feeling of helplessness. I knew doing something to give back to the community would be the right thing to do,” said McCreesh, who organized a bone marrow drive and sought out donations in the boy’s honor. “Everything kind of grew from there.”
The following year, McCreesh founded Coaches Offering Assistance for Children’s Health (C.O.A.C.H.es Care, Inc.), a charity run by an all-volunteer board of directors comprised mostly of former coaches. Partnering with JFK Medical Center (now JFK Hartwyck), the charity made providing monetary assistance for pediatric cancer patients its top priority.
For the first three years, C.O.A.C.H.es Care, in conjunction with the borough’s baseball club, held a 12-hour softball marathon, donating all money raised to purchase toys, games, stuff animals and other small items for children entering the hospital.
“We asked JFK to provide a specific need and let us know what tangible and quantifiable items we could donate to ease a child’s transition into the hospital; we didn't want the money to go to a fund or toward research,” said McCreesh, who serves as president of C.O.A.C.H.es Care.
In 2004, the charity moved its annual fundraiser from the baseball field to the golf course and, over the past 12 years, the C.O.A.C.H.es Care Golf Classic and Auction has remained the non-profits primary fundraiser.
The classic takes place annually on the second Saturday of June at the Heron Glen Golf Course in Ringoes. To date, the classic has raised close to $725,000 for JFK, with the funds used to purchase diagnostic equipment, computers, and kid-friendly wheelchairs, among other things. McCreesh points to Vice-President Thom Lanza as the charities driving force in the months leading up to the tournament. “Thom and I talk almost every day for months,” McCreesh said. “He is constantly pushing us to maintain our ability to run a first class tournament.”
Additionally, in 2010, money raised by the charity went to open the C.O.A.C.H.es Care Therapeutic Learning Center at JFK’s Oak Tree Road-based Children’s Neurological Center (CNC) and, this past June, the C.O.A.C.H.es Care Playground at the Edison facility was erected. According to McCreesh, the outdoor complex will add to the learning center’s ability to aid in the diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of children with brain tumors and its design will help many more children work through their struggles as well.
While much of the organization’s focus stems around helping pediatric cancer patients, C.O.A.C.H.es Care is also available to help others in the community as well. In the past, the charity has organized and run numerous local fundraisers, including ‘Buckets for Bob,’ ‘Believe in Brittany,’ ‘Rally for Riley,’ Tiger Nation for Nancy,’ ‘Memories of Mosca’ and, most recently, ‘Wheels for Bri.’
“My mantra is simple and it’s what I have tried to instill in my own children: Take all that you can out of life, but give back more than you take,” McCreesh said, adding, “We have a saying, ‘Youth is our greatest asset,’ and our goal is to protect that asset.”
The "we" to whom McCreesh continuously refers is the charity’s all-volunteer board of directors. Comprised of former coaches, the board has remained the same since the organization was first established and includes McCreesh and Lanza along with Tony Cassano, Charles Decker, Bill DeNitzio, Keith Heckel, Chris Hubner, Rich Little, Guy Moretti, Ted Tucker and Kurt Ullom.
“We were all Little League coaches who were on the board at the same time. We knew a child who was sick and wanted to do something to give back to the community,” said McCreesh. “It’s easy to come up with an idea but it takes a lot of people to make it happen.”
Today, McCreesh is happy to report that his former batboy, the driving force behind the charity’s initial efforts, is healthy. He attends the golf classic annually and, this spring, graduated from college. “For me, that’s what all this is about,” he said.
For more information about C.O.A.C.H.es Care, visit www.coaches-care.com or email Tom McCreesh at TDMC14@aol.com.