Bala Cynwyd’s Howard Jaffe Joins Roger Daltrey in the Fight Against Teen Cancer

He was just another Who fan—until he convinced the legendary band’s singer to bring his nonprofit organization to the U.S.

Howard Jaffe might struggle to manage his schedule without the digital clocks he bought at Bed Bath & Beyond. One is set to Los Angeles time, another to London time. A third—EST—faces him on his desk at his office in Two Bala Plaza. 

All three came in handy last July, when Jaffe lured iconic British rocker Roger Daltrey to the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall for a sold-out show with Wynnewood native Joan Jett as his opening act. The performance was some six years in the making, and all of the proceeds went to a new outpatient room for cancer-stricken teens at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “We promised $250,000 to CHOP, and we delivered it,” says Jaffe, beaming.

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Everything important in Jaffe’s life contains the letters H and O. There’s his first name. His favorite sport is ice hockey. Rather than working daily as a lawyer, he chairs a nonprofit board that operates gobs of nursing homes. You might’ve surmised that his favorite band is the Who, of which Daltrey is the lead singer. And his parents have a beloved Shore house in Ventnor, N.J. 

The 48-year-old real estate attorney works in an office covered with Who memorabilia and Flyers paraphernalia. In 2003, he helped publish The Philadelphia Flyers Encyclopedia. Daltrey and Bobby Clarke, he contends, are two of the greatest performers to ever energize the Spectrum. “I’m highly loyal to the things I like,” he says. “Most people who know me just call me ‘How,’ which is ‘Who’ scrambled.” 

Jaffe is the treasurer and a founding board member of Teen Cancer America, the Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization Daltrey and Who guitarist Pete Townshend cofounded as an extension of their long-standing involvement with England’s Teenage Cancer Trust. TCA has raised $7 million thus far, much of it from donors in the music world. By 2013, it had achieved nonprofit status. 

Howard Jaffe//Photo by tessa marie images

Daltrey and Pete Townshend embrace

at the 2012 Teen Cancer America kickoff

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Photo Courtesy of teen cancer america 

The idea behind both TCT and TCA is to alter what’s currently a teenage wasteland when it comes to young people with cancer. Initially, funds go to designing and equipping comfort rooms in age-specific oncology wings, and helping improve the social and emotional setbacks associated with such a devastating diagnosis. Ultimately, though, the goal is to improve outcomes.

It was Jaffe who first approached Daltrey and secured his interest in bringing the charity across the Atlantic. In 2006, he met the singer for the first time backstage at the Borgata in Atlantic City, N.J. “I just thought, ‘I’m going to make this happen,’” he says. 

After a Daltrey solo show at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts in 2011, with Jaffe in tow, Daltrey’s personal assistant got his boss’ attention backstage. “Roger said, ‘Mate, what can you do?’” Jaffe recalls.

The Daltrey/Townshend Teen and Young Adult Cancer Program at UCLA Medical Center was the first of its kind in this country. In October, a second TCA teen zone is set to open in CHOP’s new outpatient Buerger Center for Advanced Pediatric Care. Others are planned for Tampa, Fla., New Haven, Conn., and New York City. 

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Weaning people off the Pete-and-Roger bandwagon is the goal of Rebecca Rothstein and her partner, Simon Davies. Rothstein chairs TCA’s 10-person board. Davies is the charity’s executive director, just as he once was for TCT. “No disrespect to my dear friend, Roger, but TCA has to stand on its own,” says Rothstein, expanding on the previous point. “It’s our job to find a way to survive and continue to expand.”

That’s exactly what happened with TCT. “Now, it’s nothing to have a 10-day show in England where bands perform—and the Who isn’t one of them,” Rothstein says. 

“Roger is the first to say that the charity must have a life of its own,” adds Davies. “We have our own momentum, though
[the Who] can be icing on the cake.”

To that end, Daltrey has said he will continue to do top-dollar solo gigs, but Jaffe wonders who will do the nonprofit’s “heavy lifting.” As a band, the Who can draw 20,000, and the wish is for TCA to be the beneficiary of all the proceeds from one final show, though the organization won’t hype expectations. “It’s what we’re hoping,” says Jaffe, who plans to attend 10 shows on the anniversary tour.

Right now, the band donates $1 from every ticket sold. But then what? “It’s like the title of the Who’s iconic album, Who’s Next,” says Jaffe. “Will there be a guy in Chicago who wants to do what I’m doing here?”

Howard Jaffe and his wife, Mya, with Daltrey and Joan Jett//photo courtesy of teen cancer america

Howard Jaffe was 16 when he first saw the Who on Sept. 25, 1982, at the old JFK Stadium in Philadelphia. And he’ll be on hand May 17, when the band performs at the Wells Fargo Center as part of its 50th-anniversary tour. He plans to attend nine more shows, including a second Philly stop on Nov. 4—the last venue scheduled. The two surviving members aren’t getting any younger, so there’s talk that this could be a legitimate farewell after an improbable half-century run. “This is it,” says Jaffe. “I’ve heard it from the horse’s mouth—Roger.” 

Jaffe grew up in Elkins Park, graduating from Cheltenham High School in 1984, back when MTV was still a new phenom-enon. He became hooked on the Who in a “weird, latent way.” Townshend’s second solo album, All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes, came out in 1982, and he was intrigued by the videos, the music, and the guitarist’s eccentric persona. “He just looked cool,” Jaffe says now. 

Soon, he was way into the Who. He even noticed that he looked a little like Daltrey—and still does. “I haven’t brought it up with him, but others have,” Jaffe says. 

As a teenager, Jaffe wrote Townshend, but he didn’t hear back. “When I left for college, it was with all my Who albums and tapes,” he recalls.

Fast-forward to Jaffe’s friendship with Daltrey. “I’m a fan, but I have to watch that,” Jaffe says. “There are times when I want to say, ‘Can we just talk about the Who?’ I have to tell myself to play it cool.”

The Who plays the Stand Up to Cancer benefit in August 2014.

A portion of the proceeds from the telecast went to Teen Cancer America.

Photo courtesy of Teen Cancer America

For TCA’s Rothstein, Jaffe has gone from “Who junkie” to a valuable friend. “We’ve had others we’ve worked with whom we’ve had to rein in and pull back [as fans],” she says. “But not Howard.”

In 2000, after watching a DVD of a TCT show at Royal Albert Hall in London, Jaffe organized an alumni ice-hockey game in hopes of donating to a local TCT chapter. There wasn’t one. “It started me on a long journey,” he says. 

Jaffe reached out to the Who’s management. He wrote Townshend—this time, with a purpose. Ultimately, he connected with Davies, TCT’s executive director at the time. In 2006, Jaffe sent a $400 check overseas, and he persisted in his efforts to create an American installation, using the world-renowned CHOP as bait. “If it was going to be anyplace, I thought it should be here,” he says. 

Jaffe relentlessly campaigned for a teen room at CHOP. “He wouldn’t take no for an answer,” Rothstein says. 

Jaffe cold-called CHOP and emailed its general address. “I figured, if someone responded, I’d say, ‘I have the Who, and I can get them to play here,’” he says. “And that someone would say, ‘Yeah, right!’”

In the end, it was Lynn Salvo, director of development for CHOP’s cancer center, who responded. “Today, I tell her, ‘I don’t know why you believed me,’” says Jaffe.

Roger Daltrey surrounded by teen patients who attended his Philadelphia show this past July


Teens gave life to the Who—or, at least, that’s the way Daltrey explains the band’s motivation. The band owes that generation everything—and in the cancer world, teens are the lost generation. Every hour in the U.S., someone between the ages of 13 and 25 is diagnosed with cancer. It may be as many as 30 a day, says Davies, based on the SEER – National Cancer Institute data he’s scrutinized.

Focusing on that target age group, TCA aims to fill a healthcare niche to respect-fully care for a near-adult patient in what’s still a child’s medical setting. As a teen’s body grows, the cancer cells grow. “It’s like cancer on steroids,” says Jaffe. “When we were at CHOP, Roger told me what gets him every time—it’s the fear in the parents’ eyes.”

The next two years are critical to TCA. It has evolved faster than its over-seas counterpart, and the potential here is limitless. For now, though, the goal is to have a physical presence in seven to 10 U.S. hospitals by the end of 2016. TCA has already fielded interest from 35 to 40 hospitals in 30 states. “Roger is constantly saying we need to do more,” says Rothstein.

In the U.K., there’s a TCT presence in all 35 major cancer-treatment facilities, and the charity now wants to provide a wider range of services to teens and their families. Lately, TCT has raised between 15 and 20 million pounds a year, and over 100 million pounds since its founding in 1989.

In February 2013, Jaffe and Daltrey toured CHOP’s inpatient and outpatient facilities and met with the oncology staff. Daltrey wanted to visit a newly admitted teenager, volunteering to dress in scrubs. That patient didn’t know him, but Mom did. When she cried, Daltrey gave her a hug. “He so cares about this—and he doesn’t have any cancer in his own family,” says Jaffe, whose family is also cancer free.

That April, a CHOP delegation toured five TCT sites in the U.K. In the group was Haverford’s Dr. Anne Reilly, medical director of CHOP’s clinical oncology program, and Strafford’s Dr. Lamia Barakat, director of psychological services and behavioral oncology for its cancer center. “Howard’s optimism has been contagious,” Barakat says. “He brought us a new resource.”

The timing has been pretty close to perfect. CHOP was funding and building its new ambulatory center, and there’s been a trend toward more home-based care to meet an increase in the adolescent and young-adult populations, especially with their unique oncology needs. CHOP has two teen rooms, both located in the Buerger Center. TCA is sponsoring the one in the outpatient clinic.

Daltrey with a patient at UCLA Medical Center//photo courtesy of Teen Cancer America

Reilly says 40 percent of CHOP’s oncology patients are adolescents or young adults, and the hospital sees 60-85 such patients daily. “We can’t control when kids get sick, but we can make it more pleasant to be here,” she says.

Courtney Simmons was in fifth grade when her mother learned she had cancer. A year later, Simmons’ 16-year-old sister, Christina, was diagnosed, too. Christina died in 2007. The girls’ mom, Crystal, passed away four years later.

Simmons has survived two distinct diagnoses: Li-Fraumeni syndrome, a genetic mutation she inherited from her mom, and osteosarcoma, a bone cancer she was diagnosed with just weeks after Crystal died. Admitted to CHOP at 16, she endured 30 weeks of chemotherapy, surgery to remove the tumor in her tibia, limb reconstruction, and more.

Today, she’s two years into remission and finishing her second year at Saint Joseph’s University, where she’s on track to apply to nursing school. Initially, she wanted to become a lawyer. It was during her long stays at CHOP that she found her calling—in the form of those shift nurses who made her most painful days more bearable. 

Simmons is now one of a dozen regional youth ambassadors for TCA. In the new space at CHOP, she wants to offer activities that help teen patients get to know each other. “I was an outlier,” she says. “I didn’t know a lot of teens [with cancer]. TCA is a way to fix that.”

Before his performance at Verizon Hall, Daltrey invited Simmons on stage to thank the audience for attending. “It was so powerful,” she says. “Everyone was gathered for one reason—a reason so close to my heart.”

Jaffe knows that feeling all too well. “I don’t want to pat myself on the back, but I’m the crazy Who fan who did this,” he says. “They didn’t know me. I was just a face. Now, Roger has become a friend. He’s let me into a unique world.” 

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