WESLEY CHAPEL – When Andrew and Daniel Gantt learned their 16-year-old cousin, Tommy, was diagnosed with cancer, the two brothers’ world was shaken.
“I was pretty shocked,” Andrew said. “I knew something was going on because he wasn’t feeling like himself … we thought he had mono, but we found out it was something else.”
Tommy, who lives in Texas, was diagnosed in June 2013 with an advanced stage of nasopharyngeal carcinoma, a form of cancer found in the nasopharynx, which is located behind the nose and above the back of the throat.
Andrew and Daniel knew they wanted to do something to support Tommy as he went through treatment, so they launched a fundraising initiative that has collected more than $860 in about three weeks. The brothers will wrap up their fundraiser with a Head Shaving Event for Tommy on Friday, May 23, at 6 p.m. at Sangrock Black Belt World, 5491 Weddington Road in Wesley Chapel.
Members of the Gantts’ taekwondo demonstration team at Sangrock have volunteered to shave their heads in honor of Tommy – and as more money comes in, more teammates will have their heads shaved. Stylists from nearby Pretty Thing by Studio U will be on site, performing the shavings.
Andrew said the bulk of the money raised so far came in within the first few days after the fundraiser began. They launched a fundraising page, “4 Tommy, Luv U Cuz,” at www.fun drazr.com and posted information about the fundraiser on Facebook.
“I was really shocked – within the first two days, we had over $400,” Andrew said.
Andrew and Daniel talked with their taekwondo instructor, Master Surendra Singh, whom they’ve studied under for about three-and-a-half years, about hosting the big fundraising conclusion at Sangrock. Singh was inspired and readily agreed.
“Taekwondo is not just about supporting demonstrations or tournaments; it’s about society,” Singh said. “… I really feel great that they’re doing (the fundraiser), and it makes me proud because they are my students. I have been doing taekwondo for a long time, and this is what I learned, and this is what my parents taught me – to help others.”
Andrew said he and Daniel hope to make it down to Texas sometime this summer to visit Tommy and enjoy the activities they love doing together – video games, swimming and playing basketball and football in the yard. In the meantime, they’re keeping in touch via phone, and Andrew said he’s inspired every time he hears Tommy’s voice.
“He’s a really strong person,” Andrew said. “Even though he’s fighting cancer, he doesn’t complain about it, doesn’t even act like it’s there. He just goes on with life, and you can tell that whenever you’re talking to him.”
Find more information about Friday’s event at www.facebook.com/events/240622689478706, and learn how you can help Tommy at his fundraising page, “4 Tommy, Luv U Cuz,” at www.fundrzr.com.