-- An 11-year-old girl’s battle with cancer and her wish to make sure no other child must fight the disease have 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 died just 22 months later.
“She was supersmart and was going to conquer the world,” her mom, Amy Summy, told ABC News. “She stood out.”
“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 Summys 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 aimed at raising awareness about the types of toxic drugs that children receive while undergoing cancer treatment, as Naya did.
Summy learned after Naya’s death that some of the drugs she was treated with were derived from chemicals used to make 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, the 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.”
He said Naya was a “pretty amazing kid” who never let cancer hold her back, recalling when 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.
For the Summys, the focus is on fulfilling their promise to Naya to raise money and awareness for pediatric cancer. They think that Naya would have gotten a kick out of watching others partake in the Mustard Challenge and that she would have been the first to take it on.
“She did the Ice Bucket Challenge when she was in treatment,” Summy said, referring to the viral challenge that raised money for ALS. “I think she would just think this is funny.”