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“Tube heads” float benefits charity fund


Many people float down the Delaware in colorful tubes on hot days, sipping icy drinks and forgetting their weekly worries. But every summer, a group of tubers hits the river for much more than a relaxing trip.
This Saturday, members of the Joel A. Gingras Jr. Memorial Foundation (JAG Fund) will host their annual Tube Float. Started for fun in 1983, the event now raises money for brain tumor research in honor of the foundation’s namesake, Joel Gingras, Jr., who was diagnosed with a rare, benign tumor in 1988.
The Gingras family used that year’s tube float to raise money for Joel’s rehabilitation; tragically, he died that October at age 27, due to post-surgery complications. Joel’s brother, Christian Gingras, believes the float helped keep his family together.
“It helped our parents, family and friends stay close,” he said. “I have friends that come to the tube float to this day, 33 years later, and Joel’s friends still come too. Through life and kids and jobs they all still come.”
As the vice president of the JAG Fund, Gingras is most proud of this part of the event – the bond that each of the tubers (“tube heads”) shares, and the new connections forged over the river’s rolling waters.
With the help of Bucks County River Country, the tube heads start north of Tinicum and drift down the river in interconnected tubes like an inflatable spiderweb. Tubers latch onto the central “river barge,” the foundation’s floating hub, which dishes out food and beverages and provides musical accompaniment to their Delaware meander.
Before landing in Point Pleasant, the tube heads stop for hot dogs and hamburgers on an island and toast to Joel’s life and memory.
Although the tube float might be fun, Gingras’ favorite part of the event is the impact it and the foundation have each year.
Since its founding in 1989, the JAG Fund has raised over $2.2 million for the American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA), including $150,000 in 2020. Through a pledge program started in 1995, each tube head solicits money on individual sheets, asking family, friends and neighbors to donate.

“People easily raise $1,500 each, and our top raisers can bring in more than $5,000,” said Gingras. “We max out at around 80 tubers and are sold out completely for this year. We have a good time and tubers know that their money is making an impact, as 100% goes to the ABTA. And in the past 10 years, side fundraisers run by family and friends have also been huge for us.”
To celebrate this fundraising and outreach, the ABTA established the Joel A. Gingras, Jr. Research Fellowship in 1995. To date, they’ve awarded 33 fellowships to doctors around the country. However, according to Gingras, the JAG Fund’s impact goes beyond money.
“The foundation is a source of information for people. We get seven or eight calls per year from people with family members with tumors, and we can refer them directly to doctors and hospitals. It feels good to make connections for people and to give advice.”
One such connection is with the University of Pennsylvania and Dr. Steven Brem, chief of neurosurgical oncology at Penn Medicine and co-director at the Penn Brain Tumor Center. Brem is a past recipient of the Joel A. Gingras, Jr. Award, which is given annually by the ABTA to an individual, organization or group that has a major impact on finding a cure for brain tumors.
After 32 years of dedication and fundraising with the JAG Fund, Gingras reflected on this mission and his brother’s death. “He was the classic big brother – a lot older, I looked up to him. Joel was diagnosed when I was 13 years old, and it was scary. I can’t imagine what my parents were going through.
“But I think – through all the work of the foundation and donors and the ABTA – if Joel was diagnosed today, he would have lived.”
Donations to the JAG Fund can be made at

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