The FOJ Experience
Headline: For FOJ founder Denis Murphy, every day brings new joys and sorrows
By Michael J. Lewis
“I still get queasy when I walk into a hospital.”
That’s a statement you might expect to hear from a first-year medical student, perhaps, or someone who never goes into those buildings.
But it’s not something you expect to hear from a man who’s been inside the four walls of a hospital hundreds, maybe thousands of times.
Except, that’s how Denis Murphy feels. No matter how often he walks through those sliding glass doors, or pushes his way past a nurse’s station on his way to a room, the same icky feeling crops up in his stomach.
The co-founder of the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, an organization that has changed and helped thousands of lives, says he’ll never get comfortable with the part of the job that involves feeling and seeing the heartache of children afflicted with brain tumors or other cancers.
“Every child and family has a different story, and each one gets to us,” Denis says. “The numbers of children affected (by cancer) are staggering; I can’t process them. But to each family, this is the only thing that matters, getting their child well.”
Denis says that for as excruciating as hospital visits and funerals can be, he’s often uplifted by the adoptions, of which he attends as many as possible.
“Every adoption is emotional; I lose it most of the time,” he says. “You see how excited the child gets when the team comes over to them and shows them so much love, and you see the gratitude on the parents’ faces … it’s pretty great.”
Since the organization’s founding in 2005, Friends of Jaclyn has adopted more than children, as countless teams and organizations ranging from an opera house in Los Angeles to a high school women’s lacrosse team in upstate New York have learned the thrills and unfortunately tears that come with adopting a child suffering from pediatric cancer.
Denis’ inspiration for the Foundation, of course, was his eldest daughter Jaclyn, diagnosed in 2004 with a malignant brain tumor.
For more than a decade Jaclyn, now 22 has been the “face” of the organization, educating and spreading the word about the organization and the incredible need for support for children and families affected.
“It’s a challenge because as she has grown up she still lives with this disease 24-7-365,” Denis says. “She just wants to be treated normally and that’s what we’ve tried to do.”
As Friends of Jaclyn continues to grow, with exciting new media projects on the horizon that could bring new visibility, there will be greater challenges for Denis and FOJ.
One area he’s particularly excited about is the new “Corporate Captains” program, focusing on businesses and the impact they’re making in their communities in partnership with FOJ (in fact, the FOJ Experience will be highlighting those wonderful companies in this space in the near future.)
“We’re not coming to these businesses with our hands out and saying write us a check,” Denis says. “We want them to know we give, we don’t just take. We want them to be partners with us and want them to help us, of course, but also help their people and employees as well.”
No matter how many miles he’s logged and how many hugs he’s given to grieving Moms and Dads, Denis’ upbeat outlook has not changed. He is beyond convinced that a brain tumor cure is around the corner.
“A cure is going to come from one of these athletes who have adopted a child,” Denis says, repeating a line he’s been saying for years. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from a nurse who’s gone into oncology or a college student who’s studying brain tumors. It’s going to happen, I know it is.”