My Legacy: The Story of Tom McHale
The My Legacy campaign was launched to recognize individuals who have made a lasting contribution to research and awareness of concussions and CTE, and encourages others to pitch in and create their own legacy. To read more about the campaign and learn how you can participate, click here.
Margy McHale and Marnie Abramson have hosted five Tom McHale Memorial fundraising events in support of the Concussion Legacy Foundation and in honor of Margy's brother and former NFL lineman Tom McHale. McHale died in 2008 at age 45 and his brain was donated to the Foundation and Boston University, where he was diagnosed with CTE. Margie and Marnie were presented at the 2015 Impact Awards with the Legacy Award, which is given to family members of a Legacy Donor who have honored their loved one's memory by supporting the Foundation's mission.
Below is a full transcription of Margie and Marnie's interview:
THE MCHALE FAMILY:
Margie McHale: I'm the youngest of five and then Tom was fifteen months older than I am. We're really close to in age - there's less than eight years between five of us. Tom and I were extremely close. Many people I think thought we didn't even have other brothers and sisters because we were always hanging out. He and I actually shared a room when we were younger. We had a mutual trust with each other even as very young kids, always talking going to sleep every night. I went to most of his games growing up, everyone did in the neighborhood. It was a planned community so everyone supported each other.
WHO WAS TOM MCHALE:
Margie McHale: My brother, when he swam on swim team as a kid always had records, he had records in high school for track, anything he did, he did really, really well. My brother was an extremely kind person, fun, always interested in everything I was doing. When you spoke to him you felt like you were the only person in the room. During college or even after that, even when he was married, we would spend hours talking after everyone would go to sleep and just catch up on everything and I still live where we grew up, so he'd want to know about everybody. He was a really, really good person. Just a gentle, gentle man. He loved his family. He has three children; his oldest boy is special needs.
WHAT HAPPENED TO TOM:
Margie McHale: Nine years in the NFL. He's not your typical football player. He loved it and he respected it and it was a business and he was extremely good at it, but it wasn't something that defined him. He was into cooking and a lot of other things that never really were football related. I don't think he and I ever really talked football that much. We were brother and sisters, we talked life. Tom seemed fine for a long time and then there was a huge shift in his personality and he started doing drugs and drinking and not taking care of himself. It was really sad to see because we could talk forever and be together forever and those conversations change and he didn't reach out to me or return my calls.
WHAT IS CTE:
Margy McHale: Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy is Tau proteins building up in your brain and basically, it's shutting your brain down and causing damage to your brain. Intelligent, wonderful men who've given their life to play and entertain people - can you imagine for all these guys not knowing what's happening to them?
WHAT DO YOU WANT TOM MCHALE’S LEGACY TO BE:
Marnie Abramson: Most people are not going to become professional athletes but most kids will play sports. I hope that the legacy with this event is that sports get safer.
Margie McHale: I want to win if I'm playing something but not at the expense of not being around to enjoy your children, permanently be in brain damaged, having pain from headaches the rest of your life. It should never happen. It doesn't have to happen and it will change. But people have to get on board and that's why we do what we do.