[written by Club Fit blogger Lisa Skelton]
It takes a special person to take a family tragedy and turn it into a positive, but that’s just what Suzi McDonough did. When her husband, Jimmy, a longtime member of Club Fit Jefferson Valley, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2004 and passed away less than a year later, Suzi and her family didn’t turn inward. They founded the Jimmy McDonough Foundation, a nonprofit that supports cancer patients and their families in the local community, and makes a big impact despite keeping a low profile.
“Our goal is to relieve as much stress as possible for families going through a cancer diagnosis and treatment,” says Suzi. “My family and I know firsthand the importance of a good support system, and want to provide that to those who don’t have the support they need.”
Her husband’s diagnosis was a surprise to everyone. Father of five, Jimmy never smoked and was focused on his fitness routine, working out at Club Fit almost every day. He was an involved and enthusiastic supporter of his community and kids’ sports in Mahopac, continuing to coach even after his diagnosis. He was being treated for pneumonia when a CT scan and subsequent biopsy revealed Stage 3 lung cancer. He passed away in February 2005, after seven months of chemotherapy and alternative treatments, but he and his family remained optimistic and positive throughout.
Since its inception, the Jimmy McDonough Foundation has helped countless people in our community. From rides to appointments to financial assistance to family outings, the Foundation supports families through their cancer journey. Family members serve on the Foundation’s board, and their single fundraiser is a golf outing held every May at Mahopac Golf Club. “One hundred percent of our fundraising proceeds go to funding our services,” says Suzi.
An additional fundraiser was held last year at FDR Park in Yorktown, a 5K Run that involved Club Fit’s Jason Needle, who is also battling cancer. “Jason is so like Jimmy with his positive attitude, and he is such an inspiration,” says Suzi. “His enthusiasm during the 5K event reminded me of Jimmy’s optimism throughout our family’s ordeal.”
Suzi has kept herself busy in the years since Jimmy’s passing, not only with the Foundation, but as Town Councilwoman in Carmel. She also works for the State Senate, and enjoys spending time with her five now-grown children. “I have a choice,” says Suzi. “I can wilt away or look ahead.”
But the Jimmy McDonough Foundation is clearly her priority. “Through the work we do, Jimmy’s legacy will live on,” says Suzi. And Club Fit Jefferson Valley is jumping on the bandwagon, donating all proceeds raised at the club’s Open House on January 31 to the Foundation. With a $50 donation, attendees received raffle tickets for prizes including massages, tennis lessons, a week of summer camp, a big screen TV, etc. A win-win for everyone! If you couldn’t make it and would like to help Suzi and her family make a difference in the lives of cancer patients in your community, you can mail your donation to The Jimmy McDonough Foundation, 72 Lockwood Lane, Mahopac, NY 10541, and know that you helped brighten someone’s day!