The jiu-jitsu community is a generous one, as evidenced by the numerous charity organizations and events put together by the sport’s participants. One of the most prominent and successful of these charity organizations is Tap Cancer Out: a BJJ-based nonprofit that unites the community to raise funds that go toward beneficiary organizations, such as the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, St. Baldrick’s Foundation, and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Their 2018-2019 fundraisers have all benefitted Alex’s Lemonade Stand.
Anyone who’s ever tried to run any kind of charity event knows how difficult it can be to fundraise, even for the most worthwhile causes. But Tap Cancer Out has managed to do something amazing in our relatively small community — since 2012, the nonprofit has raised an incredible $1.375 million, and they’re currently preparing to host what will be jiu-jitsu’s most philanthropic tournament ever.
The organization’s founder and executive director, BJJ black belt Jon Thomas, shared an inspirational story about one event that helped them take an impressive leap toward such a number:
“In early December, Mark Vives, a black belt from Newbreed Training Center, hosted twelve seminars in twelve days at twelve different Chicago-area schools, all to benefit Tap Cancer Out. Ultimately he raised more than $13,000. I flew out there for his final seminar and it was a pretty awesome experience. We have had schools host seminars and Grapplethons on our behalf, but this is the most raised of any volunteer-run event, and just the thought of teaching twelve seminars in twelve days is exhausting.”
Later that month, TCO was able to deliver the results of the hard work of the organization and all the volunteers and donors who contributed to the cause.
“In late December we headed down to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation to deliver them with the obligatory ‘big fat check,’” says Thomas. “The check read ‘$450,000,’ though ultimately our 2018 year-end gift was for $465,000. We’ve worked with ALSF to direct $275k of those funds to ten specific research grants all around the country, while $190k will fund their Travel for Care Program, helping families get to much-needed cancer treatment.”
If you’re expecting the TCO team to take a break after such an impressive achievement, though, you’re sorely mistaken — they’re just getting started. They raised over $100,000 at their 2019 Tap Cancer Out San Diego Open on February 2 (a record for their San Diego event), and if you think that’s impressive, it’s just half of what they’re about to do in Connecticut.
On March 30, the 2019 Tap Cancer Out Connecticut Open will aim to raise $200,000 to defeat cancer. Thomas says TCO is well on track to meet and even exceed the goal, and given that it’s looking to be Connecticut’s biggest BJJ tournament ever, the organization is going all-out to make it as successful as possible.
“We are concurrently going to run our first Black Belt Showcase with over fifteen gi and no-gi submission only matches [which will be eight minutes long and go to judge’s decision if no submission is achieved], featuring some great talent all across the northeast, including Renan Borges, Mike Davila, Frank Rosenthal, Nick Newell, and a whole bunch more,” says Thomas. “Though we’re not requiring them to, many of the black belts are fundraising and have set up fundraising teams for their schools, too. Luckily, we’re hosting it at a huge venue that will be able to accommodate everything going on, and we’re recruiting a MASSIVE volunteer team. But if (and when) we pull this off, it’s really something never seen before in BJJ.”
Matchups for the Black Belt Showcase can be found on Tap Cancer Out’s Instagram page as they are announced.
Thomas told the Jiu-Jitsu Times that he was finally able to leave his job last summer to focus on TCO full-time, so if you’re impressed with what the organization has accomplished so far, be prepared for them to achieve even bigger things in the future. “All of this has been done on nights and weekends by myself and my wife with the help of hundreds of volunteers,” says Thomas. “Now that I can focus on TCO day-in and day-out, we’re poised for much quicker growth.”
If you want to be a part of their efforts, good news — there may be a TCO tournament coming to a location near you. Thomas says that after their Connecticut event, we can expect TCO tournaments in Massachusetts, Philadelphia, Orlando, Raleigh, Austin, Chicago, Baltimore, Charlotte, Atlanta, Nashville, and a to-be-determined city in Ohio.
To learn more about Tap Cancer Out and donate to the cause, visit their website here.