Blame Drew’s Cancer For My Attitude of Gratitude

drew olanoffAugust 8, 2009 Who IS this hipster? Meet Drew Olanoff. Media geek. Mobile guru. Inspiration.

Yesterday I wrote about kids’ propensity to get their yucks at someone else’s expense fostering an ‘ouch, I can relate to that’ empathy to bring humor to each life lesson…

Today I want to focus on one of my favorite themes of ‘turning a negative into a positive’ and using new media to ‘flip the message’ by riffing on a loosely created touchpoint to turn it into a purposeful, productive venture…(as you know, that’s our ‘thing’ here at Shaping Youth) To recap the FML post…They do a great job of soliciting user-generated content of everyday life foibles lobbed front and center onto the virtual stage…

BUT Drew Olanoff (pictured above) takes it a giant step further with his inspiring site, Blame Drew’s

Essentially, he takes a ‘get better not bitter’ attitude about his cancer diagnosis and parlays it into a Twitter  hub for people to share short 140 character s bursts of frustration and have it ‘show up’ as animated signage on the web…In doing so, he ‘brings us along for the ride’ by creating a profound sense of community and approachability that’s FUN, uplifting, warm, and inviting…all terms rarely associated with ‘the big C.’

“On May 20th, 2009, Drew Olanoff was diagnosed with cancer. Ever since that day, Drew has blamed everything on his cancer.

Losing his keys, misplacing his wallet, Twitter being slow, the Phillies losing, etc. Why? Because you have to beat up on Cancer to win… and you can help out.

Blame Drew’s Cancer for anything you want by tweeting with the hashtag #BlameDrewsCancer and it’ll come here. When Drew beats Cancer we hope to have sponsors that will donate a dollar for every participant to our brand new partner, LIVESTRONG. Support our new partner! ”

His site blurb explains his situation further, which as I understand here on Causecast, is Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Stage 3, with chemo every two weeks for six months.

bdc screen

Blame Drew’s Cancer is as close to a ‘real time’ feed as I’ve seen with whimsical, jazzed up clever graphic treatments that automatically enhance the text and surprise you with a  ‘ooh, lookie there, my name up in lights’ web celeb moment akin to the Live Nation ‘text notes’ that shows up on the concert screen…

Try it! Little kids would love to sit by your side and see their words come to life…(I lost my teddy bear, BDC!)

This could be particularly useful to open up a conversation if a child has firsthand experience with cancer and doesn’t know where to ‘put the angst’…(could also help it from ‘coming out sideways behaviorally and landing in your lap)

He provides us all a great youth ‘teaching moment’ without being heavy-handed to convey the ‘when live gives you lemons’ approach to just about everything…

Moreover, he gives us a role model to ‘make it count’ on the planet, regardless of how much time we may or may not have.

I ABSOLUTELY love that, existentialist that I am.

livestrong childAND…by developing partner alliances with LiveStrong and seeking sponsors to pay it forward, he’s turning what my teen might call a ‘sucky situation’ into a benefit for all.

He seems to be veering toward ties with ’’ which is a DNA genetic testing site for health, disease, and ancestry too. (I’d heard about them at my last Health 2.0 conference…hmn, wonder what he’s cookin’ up) go, Drew!

He’s also instilling emotional coping skills and resiliency that I personally feel many kids are lacking…Face it, the guy’s an inspiration…

bdc statsI don’t know him personally, but as a ‘branding’ gal, Drew Olanoff hits the right note with people who are not sure what to do with the social stigma of ‘how to respond’ to someone battling cancer in any way, shape or form. (I know he’s not trying to ‘brand’ himself, per se, but he’s doin’ a dang good job which we can all learn from)…

People are inspired to act themselves by seeing that this ONE man in Pennsylvania has turned his plight into over 20,000 actions in less than 100 days, uniting people for his cause while managing to “Have Fun, Do Good.”

His informal sincerity and heartfelt tonality enables all of us to ‘put a human face’ on his ordeal without turning it into a ‘pity party’ (complete with theatrically scary organ soundtrack from Phantom of the Opera).

AND…he also succeeds in shifting us all away from ‘analysis paralysis’ (those ‘what do I say? would he be offended if…? how can I help?’ moments)

This is where Drew’s new media community exceeds all expectations…

It’s raw and real, but he steps out of his own cancer to make it easy to relate to on any level for any one EVER impacted by the disease. (Or for anyone just having a lousy day for that matter…)

He also comes off as very selfless, making the conversation less about ‘him’ and more about grasping at the overall frustration that knots the stomach in fist-clenching, hand-wringing terror for all of us who feel so helpless in battling cancer universally.

In essence? He’s given us all a gift.

He’s created a sense of community that goes beyond hope or fundraising or sharing personal insights about the disease itself and hopscotched OVER it all to create a new form of whimsical engagement that most anyone can ‘handle’…

Some may say it’s ‘cancer light’ or ‘digital quick clicks’ but all too often, people touched by cancer tell poignant tales of people distancing inadvertently in somber ‘I don’t know what to say’ mode, right when they need support the most…

OR cancer patients are forced to make ‘happy chat’ or play dodgeball with the topic to avoid making OTHER people feel uncomfortable. Bleh. That’s exhausting even when you’re NOT going through chemo, ya know?!

I really love what he’s done here as he’s brilliantly given us all a way to ‘release’ our angst into the media stream and ‘participate’  without getting sucked into a vortex of gloom or deep dive into our psyche to  confront our own mortality…

It’s almost like he’s taking those ‘crepe hangers’ (as my mom calls ’em) who slink around with ‘well-meaning but somber’ tones and gives ’em a good shoulder shake and a goose in the backside as if to say:

‘Hey, if you want to help, lighten up and let’s turn this tanker around!!’

(My thoughts, not his, I have no clue what Drew Olanoff  is thinking!)

remissionWhat I DO know for sure is that many cancer survivors share that the last thing they want to do during treatment is tiptoe around social stigmas taking care of other people during their own personal crisis or dwell in ‘too much information and education’ that taints one’s worldview.

It’s not every day that a serious disease gets a light-hearted boost in awareness and participatory action that works…

Granted, I’ve written about  HopeLab’s Remission game which clearly works well to empower kids through the cancer treatment and help them understand their bodies, but that’s not user generated content, that’s a video game.

Plus, it’s a different audience altogether, falling into the educational and therapeutic use of digital versus a mass media-UGC interplay…

Still, I could see some cool partnerships there.

BlameAThon logoWant to help sponsor the cause?

Drew’s hitting the talk show circuit as he’s able (chemo permitting) and he’s been promoting the concept virally through the increasing popular viral marketing of his Facebook page, Twitter following and new ideas that keep popping up everywhere…

I just saw a ‘support Blame Drew’s Cancer’ request to add a ‘twibbon’ to a Twitter avatar to spread the word, and a global‘Blame-a-thon 24-hour fundraiser event on 9-09-09 to raise awareness of cancer using digital means…(Event logo designed by @JohnnyNines on Twitter)

Then there are countless local face to face events and meetups and download sites and assorted MSM press emerging across the country to build momentum for the cause…

All VERY cool crowd-created ideas that can take off and ‘pay it forward’ to help others…Frankly, I don’t know a single person who has NOT been touched by cancer in some way, shape or form in their lives.

I can’t think of a better way to use media to go after dollar-driven appeal of sponsors wanting that ‘halo’ effect to stir up funding for cancer research and raise awareness universally!

I’m a huge fan of this ‘build on a platform’ open-source concept and hope more and more forces collide to turn ‘entertainment’ into a ‘serious game’ and vice-versa. It’s a win-win for all.

Cool use of social media en masse, eh?

As the kids would say, ‘awesome.’ Here’s how you can jump into the fray:

  • p.s. Blame Drew’s Cancer that I can’t keep my articles to under 1000 words! 😉



  1. Interesting stats that just came in to me via Twitter re: Childhood Cancer/ethnicity:

    “Today’s Fact: ’03-’05 rate of cancer diagnoses was higher for White children than Black, Asian or Native American kids

  2. You nailed it. BLAMEdrewsCANCER is not about me. It’s about learning the ways to cope and manage something that instills fear. Very real, very palpable fear. We’re making cancer something tangible that you can kick in the rear. You ain’t seen nuttin yet. Thank you so so very much for the support and wonderful piece.

  3. Well, there you have it, ladies and gentleman…The power of social media at work.

    I’ve now ‘virtually hugged/handshaked’ with Drew Olanoff on Twitter and now in this blog (see above)…

    So we can go on with our important work knowing there are cool people out there populating the planet that make it worth forging forward with purpose and passion! wOOt!

    Drew, do you know of ‘Spirit’ You have MUCH in common with the founder Meaghan E. (even in tonality, read her about us section: “Looking for a way to reach out to others Meaghan started a blog called I Kicked Cancers Ass where she wrote openly and honestly about her experience…”

    She’s launched an online to offline interplay that’s a cool concept for engaging folks productively as well. She’s @SpiritJump on Twitter; one of the 2009 Cancer Fighters Winners…Cancer doesn’t stand a chance with you two kickin’ tails!

  4. 🙂 Yup, love SpiritJump!

  5. On what did you #BlameDrewsCancer ? I voted Guilty on Drew’s Cancer in AllRise court

  6. I always practice gratitude and so many wonderful things happened lately.

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