Jim Tressel is a great coach and will have a legacy at Ohio State that may be tough to match. From the relationships he forged with his players to the overall record that dominated the college football scene for ten years. He will be a tough act to follow in Scarlet and Gray even for Urban Meyer. One area in Coach Tressel’s life that will go unmatched by anyone is his involvement in charities. It will be difficult for me to honor all of the charities that Coach Tressel and his wife Ellen have been involved in. That is exactly how he felt when he responded to my e-mail asking him to answer some questions.
“Chris – I would not know where to begin to list all the charities that we have been involved with….I think I’ll opt to go with Paul Brown’s advice on your email template…..so as not to forget someone !! Happy Memorial Weekend !! JT”
What he is referring to is one of my favorite quotes. “When you win say nothing. When you lose, say less.” I am sure that this is a quote he is very familiar with and basically means to let your actions do their speaking for themselves. I had hoped for more out of Coach Tressel but got something that was perfect for what I am writing about. It helped me sit back and reflect on a lot of things that I was considering writing about and all of the charities I was going to try to mention in this article.
I had the opportunity to interview Jennifer McDonald, Senior Director of Development, OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center, James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute. She has spent a lot of time with the Tressel’s with the Tressel Family Fund there and it is the charity they spent a lot of time being involved in for good reason.
Q – Jim Tressel has a legacy of being a very caring person and has given back to the community in several ways. How did the Jim Tressel Family Fund come about?
A – The Tressel Family Fund for Cancer Prevention Research was established in 2003, by the Tressel family and community members in memory of Eloise and Lee Tressel, Jim’s parents, at Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center-James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.
Q – In what ways were Coach Tressel and his wife Ellen involved in the development of the fund and how involved are they in its operation?
A – They were very involved in the fund development and how the dollars are used. Ellen probably stated it best in a speech she gave in 2010 at Stefanie’s Champions where she and Jim were with Honorary Chairs –
“The Tressel family is proud to partner with The James Cancer Hospital and have done so with the establishment of The Tressel Family Fund for Cancer Prevention Research. We are as committed to finding ways to prevent cancer as we are in treating it, and want to give good docs and scientists every opportunity to find the next miracle.”
Q – How many different ways does the fund support the Cancer Prevention Research at the Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center - James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute?
A - The fund has supported our Children’s Program, a nationally recognized grief support program for children that have lost a parent or loved one to cancer. Supported the efforts of Dr. Steve Clinton and his food based research, which study the benefits of tomatoes and soy, which have strong cancer preventing potential. Supported Dr. Electra Paskett with her research involving ways to prevent lymph edema, a common and often painful swelling in the arms and legs of cancer survivors. And, the fund has hosted free prostrate screenings and support for our smoking cessation program.
Q – What are some of the highlights of its brief history at the hospital?
A – The Tressel Family Fund has raised more than $1.5 million dollars to support research and prevention. Through their efforts countless patients will survive cancer. The fund will keep giving for years and years to come…the highlights are immeasurable.
Q - What are some of the fundraisers they are involved in for the fund personally?
A – Over the year’s they have participated in a variety of activities. What’s most special about Jim and Ellen is that they supported The James, not just their own fund. Ellen was a member of The James Foundation Board, they were Honorary Chairs for the Herbert J. Block Memorial Tournament, Stefanie’s Champions and Up on the Roof. In addition, they personally supported many events to benefit The James and they made a personal contribution to support the new James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, currently under construction. They invested their time and support in helping us find a cure.
Q – Do you have a favorite time or favorite story about Coach Tressel and his wife Ellen? What is it?
A – My favorite or most memorable moment with Coach and Ellen was their response when Stefanie Spielman passed away. The OSU Athletic Department and the Tressel’s were amazing. The calling hours for Stefanie were held at the Longaberger Alumni House and the entire team, led by Coach and Ellen, walked over to pay their respects. Each athlete carried a rose and they formed a large bouquet for the family…seeing them walk through the parking lot in unity to pay their respects was extremely moving and I know it meant a great deal to the Spielman Family. In addition, they had a commemorative “SS” sticker made that the players wore on their helmets during the Michigan vs. Ohio State game to pay tribute to Stefanie. It was an amazing tribute!
Q - What are some ways our readers can do their part to support the Jim Tressel Family Fund?
A – Cancer prevention is ongoing, we won’t stop until we find a cure and the fund will keep supporting that effort. The easiest way to support is to consider making a gift to the fund. Donations can be made online at the link below or you could mail a gift to: Office of Development,660 Ackerman Road, P.O. Box 183112,Columbus,OH 43218 or click to give
Q – Lastly, with everything that has happened in the past year, nothing could change the type of human being Jim Tressel is. What would you like people to know about him and what he means to this fund and the hospital?
A – Jim and Ellen are very special to The James. They took the opportunity to step into the spotlight and give back to our community, for that we are extremely grateful. I think people should also know that in addition to supporting fundraising efforts, Jim and Ellen would visit patients at The James, they would call patients in need of a pick me up, and they would send hand-written notes to thank donors to the fund. They are just extremely supportive and wonderful advocates for our cancer program.
Thank you Jennifer for your time and energy that you put into this fund and for participating in this special interview to highlight a very special man and his wife, Jim and Ellen Tressel. The Tressel Family Fund is obviously the pride and joy for them and for you.
I can honestly say that I got to shake Coach Tressel’s hand. It was during spring ball of 2002 and I was accompanying a reporter friend of mine from my hometown of Parkersburg, WV to watch Nick Swisher play. I have known Nick since he was in middle school and took several trips to Columbus to watch him play. This trip was a nice surprise from my friend Steve, as the Buckeyes football team was hosting a media day and I was going to be allowed to attend. There were several players on the Buckeyes roster during that time I would have really liked to ask some questions, but I was only concerned with meeting and shaking the hand of Jim Tressel. I got that opportunity and spoke to him about a few things not football related and will enjoy having had that moment with him.
I was a fan that knew who he was before he was hired. I had already seen him in action at Marshall’s stadium during one of the National Championship games involving the Herd and Coach Tressel’s Penguins of Youngstown State. Maybe in the back of my mind I told myself that if anything ever happened to Coach Cooper, Jim Tressel would be a great choice. As fate would have it, he was, and the rest is history. When his name was being thrown around along with Mason and Bellotti I started doing some research. The thing that jumped out immediately was all of the charity work that he was connected to in Youngstown.
Coach Tressel and his wife Ellen are credited with being the driving force behind charities in Youngstown, specifically the Salvation Army and Ronald McDonald House Charities. Just about everywhere you read about their contributions to that community, you’ll find reference to those two. While there he laid the groundwork for what would become the calling card for his personality and mission.
The truth of the matter for what Coach Tressel has done with charities is that he will continue to do it for the rest of his days. One thing is perfectly clear about him as a man; he will always help those who cannot help themselves. The charities that he has supported since being at Ohio State are long and very deserving. Very recently he and Ellen are involved in the Kids N Kamp organization and will be hosting their Cherish the Moment Charity Social on June 24th. Kids N Kamp simply put is a “lifetime of support for families touched by childhood cancer” and the social is June 24 and being hosted at M at Miranova in Columbus.
Two of my favorite things that I followed with Coach Tressel are the Make A Wish Foundation and the way he always supported the U.S. Armed Services. On Memorial Day a year ago when Ohio State lost a great man in Coach Tressel, the shock waves were felt elsewhere too. Charities that he was involved in feared the worst. NBC4i.com report.
A lot of what Coach Tressel and his wife Ellen have been involved in can be found in the Winners Manual website, or you can simply search Jim Tressel charities. All proceeds from the sales of the book were donated to the renovation of the William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library Fund I myself can only hope to be remotely as passionate and as giving as Coach has been his entire life. What we do in our lives will define us. I believe in my heart that all of what he has done with regard to faith and giving of himself to others will define him more than what kind of coach he was. He has set a standard of giving while being the head coach of the greatest university in the land, one that may never be topped. Coach Tressel will surely be missed as the head coach of THE Ohio State University, but he will always be involved in those charities that he supports.
There was no way for me to mention every charity they have ever been a part of just as Coach said. I hope you take the opportunity to do a little research and learn what I have about both of these wonderful people. Thank you Jim and Ellen Tressel for being the human beings that you are and for all that you give to your community.