What started with a single photo quickly transformed into a campaign to support everyone around the world battling cancer. This is the story of how Thumbs Up, Cancer Down got its name.
Cancer is a disease that impacts so many lives. In late May 2014, Thumbs Up, Cancer Down CEO Kevin Charette’s friend, David Marcus, was told he had colon cancer. It wasn’t the first time he heard this news. Back in 2012, he fought his first battle with cancer.
On July 15th, 2014, Kevin saw this photo on Facebook.
There’s David with his signature two thumbs up. This photo was taken at the Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center (CBCC) in Bakersfield, CA. Accompanying him in this photo is a young man named Naythan Bryant.
Kevin’s heart sank when he saw this photo. Naythan played on his Northwest Baseball team in 2010. As soon as Kevin saw the photo, he called Naythan’s mom and went to CBCC to see him during one of his treatment sessions. It was at that time he found out that Naythan was diagnosed in May 2014 with a rare form of cancer called Nodular Lymphocyte Predominant Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
While Kevin was at CBCC, he ran into David Marcus, who was also receiving treatment that day.
The three guys took this photo together with their thumbs up to show that they were making the best of a tough situation.
When Kevin saw his husband Cody Brutlag that evening, he showed him the thumbs-up picture he took with David and Naythan earlier in the day. Cody immediately recognized the potential that photos like this one could have in inspiring others battling cancer. He said, “What if we start collecting thumbs-up photos from people around the world and create a campaign called ‘Thumbs Up, Cancer Down’?” It was at that very moment that the whole Thumbs Up, Cancer Down movement started.
Kevin posted his photo with David and Naythan on Facebook and asked others to do the same. In a matter of hours, picture after picture came in. We started with five pictures, then ten, and before we knew it, we received hundreds of thumbs-up photos. We wanted to publish all of the photos we received in a gallery that could be easily accessed by everyone. That’s when ThumbsUpCancerDown.com was born.
Once the website was up and running and the photos kept coming in, we hoped to capitalize on the momentum this movement generated. Our goal was to create something tangible that could be helpful for people battling cancer. We didn’t necessarily want to collect donations to be used for cancer research. This is absolutely important and life-saving, but there are already a number of organizations that do exactly that. We thought long and hard about how our organization could be different.
And then it occurred to us: Why don’t we ask cancer patients what they need? Through feedback from these patients, we developed Thumbs Up, Power Up Packs. These care packages are delivered free-of-charge to people undergoing chemotherapy. They include personal comfort items, such as blankets, beanies, hand sanitizer, pens and journals, and battery-backup phone chargers. The majority of funds raised from individuals and corporate donors go toward the development and delivery of these Power Up Packs.