Roger Daltrey and Joan Jett to perform in Philly for teen cancer

Howard Jaffe (center) gets to work and hang with idols Pete Townshend (left) and Roger Daltrey.
Howard Jaffe (center) gets to work and hang with idols Pete Townshend (left) and Roger Daltrey.
Posted: July 22, 2014

HOWARD JAFFE was an impressionable 16-year-old when he first saw the Who at JFK Stadium, in 1982. Roger Daltrey's commanding stage presence and Pete Townshend's ferocious guitar got him hooked.

The Who have long since given up the steady touring that touched Jaffe and thousands of other teenagers, but Daltrey and Townshend now touch the lives of new generations of teens who have been victimized by cancer.

Teen Cancer America is the fledgling, stateside counterpart of the Teenage Cancer Trust, a group that has established more than 25 teenage inpatient units in the United Kingdom since it formed in 1990. Daltrey organizes a concert at Royal Albert Hall, in London, every year to raise funds for the trust's newest ventures.

Now 48 and an attorney in Bala Cynwyd, Jaffe is a founding board member and treasurer of Teen Cancer America. He has spent much of the past six years trying to get a similar charity concert here in Philadelphia.

That concert finally will happen on Monday, as Daltrey takes the stage at the Kimmel Center for his first Teen Cancer America benefit show. Proceeds will go directly toward TCA's initiative to open an outpatient area for teens in the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Tickets for the show, also featuring Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, are still available.

Jaffe's involvement with TCA is completely as a volunteer. He considers it his way of repaying the band that gave him "a soundtrack to my life." But there's more to it than that.

"Forget that it's the Who and Roger," he said. "It's a great charity, and it's the right thing to do."

Finding normal

For teenagers in life's most awkward stage, cancer adds an immense burden. Their situation is doubly challenging for the same reason adolescence is: Teens are neither toddlers nor adults, but hospitals treat them as one or the other, with no space between.

Teen Cancer America seeks to provide space in hospitals where teenage cancer patients (defined by TCA as ages 12 to 24) can get a sense of normality. WiFi-equipped lounges with video games and flat-screen televisions make for pleasant distractions from chemotherapy and drug regimens.

The UCLA Medical Center became the first American institution to cater specifically to teens when its Daltrey/Townshend Teen & Young Adult Cancer Center opened, in 2012.

CHOP's teen space is expected to open in fall 2015 in CHOP's brand new Buerger Cancer Center. It will be an outpatient facility where teens can hang out while getting treatment.

There are currently 30 hospitals nationwide interested in creating spaces just for teenagers, including Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and the Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital, in Connecticut.

Although it is not formally affiliated with Teen Cancer America, the Teenage Cancer Trust sent experts to Los Angeles to train nurses at the UCLA facility.

Several CHOP professionals visited Teenage Cancer Trust units in the UK to brainstorm ideas for the outpatient center here.

More than a fan

Jaffe admits that his Who fandom got him involved with Teen Cancer America. Watching the special features on "The Who Live at Royal Albert Hall" DVD, sometime in 2001, he learned of Daltrey's passion for the Teenage Cancer Trust in an interview.

"He feels that teenagers gave the Who their life," Jaffe said. "That was their loyal fan base."

The Elkins Park native was surprised when an Internet search for a similar teenage cancer project in the United States returned zero results. With CHOP close by, Jaffe felt that "it was almost my obligation" to help bring the UK charity across the pond.

He said that the process was slow-moving at first, as multiple attempts to contact the Who's management and the Teenage Cancer Trust yielded no success. Jaffe then sent an email to CHOP's general-inquiry address, an email he was sure would go "into the abyss somewhere."

It didn't. Instead, hospital officials met with Jaffe and told him to go for it.

With CHOP on his side, Jaffe pushed even harder and finally got a meeting with Daltrey. "The first time I met him, I don't know if he thought I was just an overzealous Who fan or was legit," Jaffe said.

From 2008 to 2011, Jaffe persisted, meeting with Daltrey every time he performed in Philly. Daltrey finally introduced Jaffe to Rebecca Rothstein, a California financial adviser and friend of Daltrey's, who'd agreed to create a stateside version of the UK's Teenage Cancer Trust.

The fan had finally earned the trust of his idol.

Soon after, Jaffe was invited to join the Teen Cancer America board. Although a lawyer by trade, Jaffe oversees the business side of nonprofit nursing homes when he is not busy with TCA duties.

Jaffe has been the board's legal expert, well-versed in the intricacies of the Internal Revenue Service's 501(c)(3) tax code for nonprofits. "He knows everything about the law and audits and how things get done correctly," Rothstein said.

And because of his ties to Philadelphia and his communication with its world-class pediatric hospital, Jaffe has played a key role incorporating CHOP into Teen Cancer America's ambitions. CHOP's teen outpatient area has been Jaffe's "baby," Rothstein said.


A Concert for Teen Cancer America to Benefit CHOP, with Roger Daltrey and special guest Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center, Broad & Spruce streets, 7:30 p.m. Monday, $75-$150 (VIP options available), 215-893-1999, kimmelcenter.org.

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