Fran and Margaret McCaffery speak on their philanthropy at the UI and son’s cancer diagnosis

Following an approximate $100,000 donation by Fran and Margaret McCaffery to the Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer program, the pair spoke about their experience with cancer and philanthropy.


Ryan Adams

Fran and Margret McCaffery discuss philanthopy at the IMU on Tuesday, October 15th, 2019. After their son Patrick McCaffery was diagnosed with cancer, they began philanthropic work with the American Cancer Society and Coaches vs. Cancer.

Chloe O'Connor, News Reporter

As University of Iowa head basketball coach Fran McCaffery and his wife Margaret McCaffery addressed a large crowd at the Iowa Memorial Union Tuesday night, images of the pair embracing cancer survivors and standing among cancer treatment physicians flashed across the screens behind them.

The McCafferys’ son, Patrick, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at age 13, and the family treated him at the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Treatment Center at UI Hospitals and Clinics, where he has since undergone surgery and various treatments. Now, Patrick is a couple of months into his first year at the UI — and plays on his father’s basketball team.

Fran and Margaret McCaffery gave a lecture on the subject of philanthropy Tuesday following their recent donation to UI Health Care’s Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Program, which totaled $100,022.

“The idea behind [Adolescent and Young Adult] is that patients in those age ranges have, for whatever reason, despite all the advances in cancer care, not been faring as well,” Margaret said. “The important thing we’ve tried to help figure out is, and I think Iowa’s done the best job, is a very comprehensive approach to this.”

UI Hospitals and Clinics medical oncologist William Terry highlighted the Adolescent and Young Adult’s cancer treatment plan.

“The [Adolescent and Young Adult] cancer program is a special program that focuses on the unique needs of cancer patients 13 to 31 here at the university,” Terry said.

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The couple described how UIHC helped the family process the diagnosis and treatment of Patrick’s cancer.

“When we had to wake [our child] up and tell him he had cancer … it’s hard to know what to do. We count our blessings every day that we were living here [when Patrick got cancer],” Fran McCaffery said. “The treatment that we received at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics was the best in the world.”

Terry said the effects of the McCaffery’s philanthropic work in the field of cancer treatment are far reaching.

“When I came to start the [Adolescent and Young Adult] program, [the McCafferys] were some of the first people that had the financial support to go ahead and start the program,” Terry said. “Since I came here four years ago, I’ve been working with them pretty closely to develop the program. We started it from scratch. They were really the impetus to get the program going.”

The McCafferys also support a variety of other UI organizations that support cancer patients including Dance Marathon, Relay for Life, and the Hope Lodge.

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Fran also sits on the Coaches Versus Cancer national council, a subsidiary of the American Cancer Society that aligns the organization with sports coaches and fans in the fight against cancer. Margaret serves on the national board for the American Cancer Society as well.

“When you get that diagnosis, it’s scary,” Fran said. “You want to know what the plan is. What are we going to do? What are the protocols? How am I going to be treated? How am I going to feel? These are all legitimate questions and now, because of the [Adolescent and Young Adult] cancer program and other institutions we have more answers.”

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