An 11-year-old girl’s battle with cancer, and her wish to make sure no other child must fight the disease, has inspired a new, viral challenge involving mustard.
The “Mustard Challenge,” started by the No More Kids With Cancer charity, asks participants to eat a spoonful of mustard, share the moment on social media and challenge four friends to take the challenge within 24 hours or make a donation.
The challenge is the brainchild of the family of Naya Summy, who lost her battle with brain cancer in 2014 at age 11. Naya, who lived in the Philadelphia area, was diagnosed with high-risk medulloblastoma in 2013 and passed away just 22 months later.
“She was super smart and was going to conquer the world,” Naya’s mom, Amy Summy, told ABC News. “She stood out.”
Naya began raising tens of thousands of dollars for The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia while she was undergoing treatment there. She asked her family, including her dad, Hank Summy, and her 16-year-old brother, Zak, to keep up her fight against pediatric cancer.
“She was positive but every day was a difficult time so she really just wanted to end [cancer],” Amy Summy said. “She just didn’t believe that children should have cancer.”
The family started their charity, No More Kids With Cancer, after hearing Naya describe her dream of a future without pediatric cancer.
“We listened to her words and they were so clear,” Summy said.
The Mustard Challenge, which will end on Aug. 5 -- National Mustard Day -- is particularly aimed at raising awareness about the types of toxic drugs that children, including Naya, receive while undergoing cancer treatment.
Summy learned after Naya’s death that some of the drugs she was treated with were derived from the same chemicals as mustard gas.
“As a mom when I found that out, I couldn’t sleep that night and, still, it makes me so angry and sad,” she said. “We’re putting those same compounds in people and children.”
No More Kids With Cancer is focused on finding safer and more effective treatments for children with cancer, according to Summy. The charity is hoping to raise at least $6 million through the Mustard Challenge.
Dr. Michael Fisher, chief of the neuro-oncology division at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, described pediatric cancer research today as “at the dawn” of a new era but in need of more funding to unlock key areas, like precision medicine and immunotherapy.
“While we have been getting better over the years, there are still too many kids who die of cancer,” said Fisher, who treated Naya and is on the board of No More Kids With Cancer. “We’ve sort of reached the limit of where we’re going to get with therapies that were designed decades ago.”
Fisher recalled Naya as a “pretty amazing kid” who never let cancer hold her back, recalling one instance in which she asked her doctors' permission to swim with sharks.
“She was a wise beyond her years kid who was also very compassionate,” he said. “She was really wanting to raise money early on, not necessarily to help herself, but to help other kids with cancer.”
The Mustard Challenge is already getting attention from celebrities, including former NBA star David Robinson. Participants are sharing their videos using the hashtags #MustardChallenge and #NoMoreKidswithCancer.
Just took the challenge, check it out!#nomorekidswithcancer#MustardChallenge pic.twitter.com/x5oRpYmIzl
— David Robinson (@DavidtheAdmiral) April 18, 2017
For the Summy family, the focus is on fulfilling their "promise to Naya" of raising money and awareness for pediatric cancer. They also think Naya would get a kick out of watching others partake in the Mustard Challenge, and would have been the first to partake herself.
"She did the ice bucket challenge when she was in treatment," Summy said, referring to the viral challenge that raised money for Lou Gehrig’s disease. "I think she would just think this is funny."