We hope you remember former native son Jim McCaffrey who for years covered our news up and down the Main Line and in Philadelphia via Main Line Times, Wayne & Suburban, Main Line Life and The Bulletin.
He helped give our local world and issues a voice and now he is facing a health crisis of some enormity and it is very serious. He has been diagnosed with MDS or Myelodysplastic syndrome. MDS is a malignant disorder of the bone marrow.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), approximately 18,000 people develop MDS each year. MDS can affect all of the cells in our blood. MDS used to be called preleukemia due to the progression that is sometimes seen from MDS to leukemia.
Jim is going to need a bone marrow transplant. When he finds a bone marrow match he will go to Stanford University Hospital and live near the hospital for up to a year during treatment (chemotherapy, etc.) and recovery. He will require an aid to help him day in, day out – transportation, housecleaning, and so forth and so on.
His friends are paying it forward for Jim and a fundraiser to help him with the enormous costs he will be facing. The event is being held at 23 East thanks to the big heart and generosity of Joe Rufo. The event will be Feb. 28 (snow date March 7) at Ardmore’s 23 East. We will have the place to ourselves from 6-9 p.m with DJ Kevin Murphy. The doors open to the public at 9 p.m. for the band, which begins at 10 p.m. There will be food and discounted drinks. $20 per person. Cash or checks only please. Hope to see you there!
Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2013
By Cheryl Allison
Broad-shouldered, standing well over 6 feet, gray hair pulled back in a ponytail, reporter Jim McCaffrey was an unmistakable presence at meetings and events from the Main Line to Philadelphia City Hall for nearly two decades.
Unmistakable, too, was his voice as a writer, whether he was sorting out contentious community issues or telling the human stories of the area.
When he returned to his home state of California in 2008 at a time of family loss, he left behind a wide circle of friends, some of whom may not have had much in common besides their appreciation for his keen insight into local politics, his generous nature, or his wicked sense of humor.
Now those friends are rallying to his aid, from the other side of the continent.
McCaffrey, 58, was diagnosed last year with a rare and life-threatening blood disorder, MDS, or myelodysplastic. Its aggressive advance in the last several months puts him at high risk to develop leukemia.
A bone marrow transplant is a potential cure, but it comes with side effects and risks….The Jim McCaffrey Fundraiser will take place Thursday, Feb. 28, at 23 East on Lancaster Avenue in Ardmore. Joe Rufo, owner of the club, is making it available from 6 to 9 p.m. for the event. Local restaurants are coming on board to provide food, and local businessman and resident Kevin Murphy will serve as DJ. Tickets are $20 per person at the door for the 21-and-over event.
At the same time, funds have been established at Bryn Mawr Trust to receive donations, mirroring arrangements on the West Coast.
“Jim has helped a lot of people, and now it’s our turn to help him,” said Dawn Blake, a former co-worker and one of the organizers of the Feb. 28 event.
“He helped give our local world a voice.”
Born and raised in the San Francisco area, McCaffrey began working for weekly newspapers in Oregon and Idaho after attending the University of Oregon. He relocated to the East Coast in 1986, taking a job with a legal publications firm in Berwyn. He began reporting for the Suburban and Wayne Times three years later, moving on in 1994 to become one of the original staff of a new weekly, Main Line Life, later one of the papers that merged with the Suburban and the Main Line Times under the umbrella of Main Line Media News. He lived in several Main Line communities over those years, eventually settling in Ardmore.
“My beat was politics and police, so I really did cover the Main Line,” he said in a phone interview this week. “Eventually, it narrowed to Lower Merion Township.” ….Rufo was one who knew him during those years. “He would pop in once in a while” to what was then known as Brownie’s 23 East. “He would come in Thursday nights to hear Splintered Sunlight,” a Grateful Dead tribute band. “It was great to chat with him about music. I took a liking to him – he had that kind of personality,” Rufo said.
But the club owner said he also had a reason to appreciate McCaffrey as a journalist. In 2003 and 2004, when Lower Merion Township’s plans for a new Ardmore Transit Center and downtown revitalization contemplated taking and demolishing some Lancaster Avenue business properties, stopping just short of Brownie’s, Rufo said he was concerned along with the owners of potentially targeted businesses. “If it could happen to them, it could happen to any of us,” he reasoned. The township later renounced any plans to use its eminent domain powers for the still-emerging project, but in the heat of controversy, Rufo said, “Jim wrote honestly and openly about it.”
Others who appreciated McCaffrey’s work from different perspectives are former Tredyffrin Township Supervisor Bill DeHaven of Berwyn and state Rep. Greg Vitali of Havertown….Vitali said he met McCaffrey 20 years ago, when he was launching his legislative career. They became friends. …Later, McCaffrey took a new job as part of the start-up team of a new Philadelphia daily newspaper, The Bulletin, where he covered City Hall and the Philadelphia school district. “I loved it,” he said of those assignments. But in 2008, a younger brother and sister died of cancer within two weeks, and he decided to move back to his hometown of Petaluma, to be with his elderly parents….. Late last month, McCaffrey received some potentially promising news: his surviving brother, Chris, has been identified as a donor match.
“The tantalizing thing about this is it offers a ‘cure,’ but the problems that go along with it are huge,” he said. Those include the risk of infection – prior to the procedure, he would receive intensive chemotherapy to destroy his own marrow, leaving him with no immunity.
The procedure would be done at Stanford Medical Center, about an hour-and-a-half from Petaluma. After the hospital stay, he would need to live near the medical center for about three months. During that time, he would need 24-hour monitoring and help from a caregiver, who would take him to daily appointments. It could be a year before he could return to work.
McCaffrey said medical insurance will cover the procedure and some other costs, but not the caregiver and other living expenses. His company has assured him he can come back. “I know I have a job, if I can make my way through this,” he said….McCaffrey had not told many about his diagnosis until recently, but he said he knew he had to ask for help “when I realized the kind of trouble I was in.” That meant reaching out back East. “My support system is on the East Coast,” he said. “That is where I spent most of my adult life.”
And that is why the words “I can’t live without you” are at the top of a website, www.jimmccaffrey.com …The response here has been quick and broad, even from community members and business owners who have never met him. [Dawn] Blake and another former coworker from Main Line Life days, Susie Bell, got to work planning the benefit. A friend from his Ardmore days, Carla Zambelli, is reaching out to media.
For those who cannot attend the Feb. 28 event, McCaffrey’s financial advisor here, Chris Stevens, and another friend, Bryn Mawr Trust President Ted Peters, have set up an account to which contributions can be sent. Checks should be made out to James McCaffrey, and mailed to P. O. Box 11, Devon, PA, 19333-0011.
Rufo readily made 23 East available as the benefit venue. The club will be open exclusively for the event until 9 p.m., when the doors will open to the public an hour before the band for the night – Splintered Sunshine, as it happens – will perform.
A number of Main Line restaurants and stores will provide food, and 23 East will offer discounted drinks. The list includes Firinji, Gillane’s Bar & Grille, Ardmore Pizza, Sodexo Inc., The Ultimate Bake Shoppe (Ardmore Farmer’s Market at Suburban Square), ACME Markets and McCloskey’s Tavern and Jack McShea’s. Bella Italia and Jeannie’s Deli have made monetary donations. More restaurants are needed and welcome; any who would like to participate are asked to e-mail email@example.com.
McCaffrey is planning to come to the event.