October 14, 2012 Update
I want to thank everyone who shared my letter below and worked to make Jeff’s dream come true. In fewer than two months, it reached its destination thanks to Pete Petrilli. On November 1, I will join Jeff as guests at the Ellen Degeneres Show. After the show, we’re hopeful Jeff will be able to meet with Ellen to tell her his story so she can invite him back on the show to inspire the world. We all know, if given the chance, they will jump at the opportunity given Jeff’s affability, optimism, and sense of humor. We will also be guests at the X-Factor on November 1.
I had the emotional honor of sharing the news with Jeff. He was elated. He can’t use his arms anymore but he can still use his legs. He literally jumped in the air and batted his feet together — three times! I know all of you share my happiness for Jeff. This is going to be such a special moment. So you can all share it with him, I will blog about the experience while we’re there and take plenty of pictures. If you want to receive updates via email, you can subscribe to my zero-profit blog by entering your email in the “Follow Blog Via Email” link at the top right of this page. In case you missed it, you can also listen to Jeff’s appearance on my radio show by clicking here.
Thanks again for your support of our brother, son, DJ, coach, counselor, friend, and inspiration Jeff Fogel.
[My letter to Ellen Degeneres]
August 20, 2012
“The truth is once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.” – Morrie Schwartz
In 2000, I read Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom’s heart-warming book about his reunion with his 78-year old sociology professor Morrie Schwartz who was dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS). Morrie’s advice on how to live catapulted the book to the top of my favorite’s list. The same year, I heeded Morrie’s advice and took a hiatus from my job to return to work as a summer camp counselor in the Poconos. That’s where I met Jeff.
Have you ever met someone and immediately felt like you were related? Within a few days, we started calling each other “the brother I never had.” We shared the same sense of humor, outlook on life, and desire to be a positive influence in children’s lives. The campers loved nobody more than Jeff and with good reason. He sang, danced, acted, spun records, played sports, led Color War, and made them laugh uproariously.
Jeff lost his Dad to cancer when he was in middle school so I felt a special bond with him since I am so close to my own father and had mentored some children without fathers as a Big Brother. I couldn’t imagine growing up without one. As luck would have it, Jeff also lived in South Florida so we shared a lot of wonderful times together over the past 12 years.
In a tragic case of irony, doctors diagnosed Jeff with Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS) this year, a devastating illness that has gradually disabled him and will end his life unless researchers find a cure. Jeff has already lost the use of his arms. Since his diagnosis, he has been a shining symbol of positive thinking and sets an example for everyone in his life on how to appreciate every day. When I first asked him how he was coping with the news, he calmly replied, “Hey look, we’re all going to die. I’m going to keep living my life as I’ve always lived it.” That’s Jeff.
A few days ago, as I cut his food for him, Jeff reminded me how much you mean to him. “Ellen is so positive. I love that woman. She gives me a lot of strength. I wish I could go on her show to raise awareness about ALS and to show people that a disease doesn’t have to control their lives,” he said. Jeff always tells me he is living life to the fullest. He is doing what he enjoys most now — mentoring children and coaching basketball, his favorite sport that he used to play so often. When I asked him if the medicine he was taking was working, he shrugged off the question and replied, “The kids are my medicine.”
Jeff can’t move his arms. He can’t play basketball. He can’t spin his records anymore. But Jeff isn’t interested in talking about what he can’t do. I’ve never heard him complain once. But he can still inspire people. He has a story to tell and I hope you will consider inviting him on your show to share it. I hope you will be his medicine too. He reminds me a lot of Morrie Schwartz — same disease, but more importantly, same indomitable spirit, and if you meet him, I don’t think you or the world will ever forget him. I know I won’t.
On behalf of my brother Jeff,
21 thoughts on “Jeff Fogel, Meet Ellen Degeneres”
Andrew – this is so beautiful. I hope Ellen responds and he does get to go on the show.
Every episode of Kirschner’s Korner is amazing, just like you Andrew!
Jeff was my neighbor and is still a family friend. I am happy that he is keeping positive and inspiring so many! Very nice of you to write in to Ellen-Good luck!
Jeff truly is THE most giving, appreciative, inspiring and unbelievable person I know! Ellen should be so lucky to have him on her show! Jeff is walking inspiration, we are so blessed to know him and be close to him!!!!!!
I must say that this is one of the greatest notes i have read and i would love to help if ever called to do so. I have been close to jeff and his sisters for over 25yrs and grew up with him doing all you spoke about!! I hope that she replys and help him get out the word for help with this!!!
god speed kid..
I love my brother, and this was the most beautiful letter i ever read….I hope she has him and his family on the show….I am sooo there!! LOL
Jeff you are a gift in our lives a real MVP. Do not give up! Adrian and Cristina
Yea Jeff is one hell of a guy. I think we all wish we had a bit more of what he has in us ,..
I met Jeff three summers ago when he invaded my office for eight weeks while being the Basketball Specialist at summer camp. It wasn’t hard to see Jeff’s passion and special gift for working with kids. He found a couple old boxes of trophy’s that going to be thrown out, claimed them, and one by one during his breaks he started to remove the metal inscription plates and clean each trophy so he could give them to the campers, he wanted all the kids to be able to feel special. Last February I found myself sitting next to Jeff on a 747 heading for Israel with 5 other co-workers for 8 days of learning. This was right when Jeff was diagnosed with ALS. After we were in Israel a few days, phones started ringing and next we knew someone had arranged for an appointment for Jeff to see one of the the top doctor in Israel who specializes in ALS. Roundtrip transportation in a private taxi was also arranged and paid for to take Jeff and a co-worker from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem for his appointment. When asked who could have possibly put this altogether and make it all happen so fast, the answer seemed so simply, the parents of the kids that Jeff coaches in Miami made a few phone calls. So you see, Jeff has the love and support of a community behind him. Our time in Israel flew by and I believe Jeff was an inspiration to us all and without any words showed us to be thankful for what you have and live for the moment now. I was very excited today when I saw FOGGGELLLL (as I refer to Jeff) at work today with a huge smile, and talking about how excited he is that classes start Monday and he’s ready to start coaching!
Andrew – this is beautifully written … beautiful words for an astonishing young man. I am certain you will be hearing from Ellen. Jeff and my family go back many years to summers in the Poconos … the most wonderful memories of all.
Andrew and Jeff you two are inspirations to everyone. Jeff keep your head high, like you always have. You are a star and everyone knows it!!! The best memories that I keep in my heart are of the summers we spent together…all of us!! There was a reason we returned every summer and I am sure it didnt have to do with the fabulous facilities….We are family. Jeff we all love you so much and I am so lucky that we shared so many good times and you truely are an amazing person! We are ALL so lucky to have you in our lives. If I know you , like I think I do, you are living the life right now….dont stop ❤ xoxoxoxo
Every summer was a blast with Jeff. He is my largest memory of camp. We all loved him so much at camp and I send my love his way…
Amazing letter! Jeff – Ellen shoud be honored if she had you on her show. You are an insperation to us all and the GREATEST role model to our kids. Just keep living your life to the fullest as we will all be there to help and watch you.
I just want to say Andrew what a great letter, everything you wrote about my brother is so true and I get to see it all up close everyday how he lives his life…. I am so proud of Jeff and all that he does for everyone. He is Truly an Amazing Person and I Love him very much!!!! I hope Ellen has him on her show to spread awareness of ALS. They need to find a cure for the Terrible Disease.
This was so touching to read. My dad has ALS and I know we all would be so thankful for the opportunity to discuss this illness nationally. There are way too many people in this world who are unaware of this fatal disease. Thanks for sharing and your efforts!
Went to Middle and HS with Jeff… Just heartbreaking yet AMAZING! My Prayers are with Jeff and the family! The guy has always been Larger than Life and I admired him Immensely growing up! and Evenmoreso now.!! I wish the bestest of Luck in getting him in and on to tell the story! :)and Look forward to seeing it broadcast nationally! 🙂 Best wishes,
You are an amazing friend
Please go to http://www.1luv4jeff.com to show your support. The event will be at Blackbird Ordinary on December 13th.