BOSTON -- Patriots coach Bill Belichick served as the honorary chairperson for Thursday's first-annual "Friends of Jaclyn" Boston gala, providing the Foundation a major boost as it hopes to create more awareness for its cause.
Belichick said it was an honor to be asked to serve in the role because he believes "Friends of Jaclyn" is a "brilliant concept", pairing college athletic teams with children battling pediatric brain tumors.
"My dad was a coach and I grew up as part of a team. My whole life I've always felt I've been part of a team, whether it was his team or my team," Belichick said in his remarks before 500 guests at the InterContinental Boston.
"When you're a part of a team, it's such a great feeling. I preach to our players, I talk to them all the time about the power the team has when people unite and they have the same feeling and the same common goal, and they strive for that relentlessly without a selfish motive, and what you can get to and accomplish with that.
"There is no better example of it that I've ever seen in my career than the 2001 team that beat St. Louis in New Orleans. They had better players. They had better coaches. They had a better record. They had better everything. But we had a better team. We collectively came together during that season and were able to play at a level that individually, I don't think we were capable of, but collectively we were. So that team bonding and unity and cohesiveness is just such a special feeling to be part of."
Belichick explained to the crowd that he first heard of "Friends of Jaclyn" through Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse coach Dave Pietramala, whose team had an uplifting experience "adopting" a child through the Foundation.
He learned more after talking with Northwestern women's lacrosse coach Kelly Amonte-Hiller, who ultimately helped spark the creation of "Friends of Jaclyn" by "adopting" Jaclyn Murphy and making her an honorary member of her team after she was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. When Jaclyn's father, Denis, saw what a difference that made in his daughter's life, he had the idea to start "Friends of Jaclyn" to help others with pediatric brain tumors.
Belichick addressed Amonte-Hiller and Murphy in his remarks.
"What you have created here is so special," he said. "I see a team give to a child and a family the excitement and being part of that collective group, and then on the other end of it, the team receiving the strength and support. It's so unique. It's nothing a coach can give. It's nothing a motivational speaker can give. It's special, it's unique, it's so beneficial to both sides."
Belichick was introduced to the crowd Thursday night by Amonte-Hiller, who told the story of how she had once called Belichick in hopes of receiving advice on how to keep her team motivated after winning back-to-back national championships. Amonte-Hiller said she didn't expect to hear back from Belichick, the only coach in NFL history to win three Super Bowls in a four-year span.
"I think it speaks volumes to the type of person he is," Amonte-Hiller said.
Denis Murphy, who said 1,300 teams are now waiting to "adopt" a child with a pediatric brain tumor through "Friends of Jaclyn", said Belichick's participation has helped accelerate the program about two-and-a-half years ahead of schedule.
Dan Kraft, one of Robert Kraft's four sons, was one of the co-chairs for the event as The Kraft Group was a presenting sponsor. Kraft referenced Belichick in his remarks.
"Bill does a lot in this community and doesn't get a lot recognition. I know he likes it that way," Kraft said. "But for him to step up on this inaugural event and become the honorary chair, I think speaks volumes about him and his commitment to this organization."