Backstory

Do Something: How fate intervened to bring Jeffrey’s story to the world

Thirty-five years ago, young Jeffrey Modell and his parents attended a Christmas pageant at his sister Lori’s school. As families gathered for a holiday performance of “The Nutcracker,” the Modells had no idea that fate was also in the room that night. Just feet away sat 7-year-old   Joan Lynch, whose mom was a teacher at the school.

It would take nearly four decades before the Modells and Lynch crossed paths again. By then, Lynch was a two-time Peabody Award-winning film and television executive. At the request of a mutual friend, she agreed to meet with a family whose story of love and loss led them to do something that changed the world.

After the devastating passing of their son Jeffrey in 1986 to a Primary Immunodeficiency, Vicki and Fred Modell launched the Jeffrey Modell Foundation to create awareness and further educate physicians on how to recognize and diagnose these disorders.

“I flew to Arizona to meet with them,” Lynch recalls. “I believe they were there to meet with the Governor’s office to ask them to begin testing newborns for Primary Immunodeficiency. They told me their story for a couple of hours, which was just so heartbreaking and inspiring all at the same time. As we were leaving, I asked if they had any other children and that’s when I learned about Lori.”

Vicki and Fred’s daughter, Lori, attends the Melmark School in Pennsylvania — the same school where Lynch’s mom served as a teacher. Lynch and the Modells only then realized this wasn’t the first time they had come together around Jeffrey, and it wouldn’t be the last.

“I get a ton of people pitching me documentaries, but when I learned about Melmark that’s when I knew. At that moment, I knew this was a sign. I had to tell this story.”

Vicki Modell shares “Fate brought us together, but our mutual love for humanity compelled us to let Joan tell our story.”