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© 2023 by Karson Coker.

HISTORY

Thumbs Up Mission was God’s idea, not ours. We are simply stepping into the story that He has woven together. It all began in 2012 when Miles and Sharon Coker's son, Keaton, was diagnosed with brain cancer. Keaton fought for two years with courage, humility, and confidence in his Creator, but in July of 2014 he went to be with Jesus. Since then, Miles, Sharon, and the entire Coker family have experienced all of the unspeakable aches that accompany the loss of a loved one. Keaton was just 18-years-old, and while he was dying of brain cancer, he showed the world how to live. His desire was to spend his life in ministry, pointing others to Jesus.  THAT is precisely what Thumbs Up Mission is designed to do. 

As the Cokers reflected on their two-year journey through cancer, they were reminded of many blessings along the way. One stood out brighter than all the others. In March of 2014, Keaton was given a wish from Make-A-Wish Georgia. Desiring to spend time golfing and relaxing on the beach with his brothers, he wished for a trip to Jamaica. For five glorious days the family was able to play, laugh, and banish all cancer treatment activities from their minds. The Cokers treasure the memories of that trip, and now that Keaton is gone the value of that treasure is priceless. They will never forget the time spent together and will always be grateful for it.

 

One day during a conversation with Miles' accountability group, God began the first nudges toward the creation of Thumbs Up Mission. The group had asked him what meant most to his family on their journey with cancer and in response, Miles told story after story from Keaton's trip to Jamaica. Soon Miles began to talk loosely about the possibility of starting a foundation in Keaton's honor, but couldn't quite decide upon the right focus or direction for the organization. The men began to pray that an idea would take shape. Just days later, the Cokers received a phone call from a friend of a friend. The friend, a young wife and mother named Ashlee, had just been diagnosed with the same kind of brain cancer that Keaton had. Miles and Sharon spoke with the family and shared what they had learned from personal research about treatment options, but as the conversations continued the biggest thought that ran through their minds was, “That family needs time away together!” Understanding that Ashlee wouldn't qualify for a wish from a children's wish granting organization, Miles and Sharon found a gap they believe God was asking them to fill. 

 

Keaton taught us many things during his 6,858 days on earth, but generosity was near the top. His birthday and Christmas money repeatedly got shoved into a dresser drawer for safe keeping; then, when a worthy cause moved his emotions he would empty his money drawer completely. All who knew him marveled at that trait and learned from his example. Thus, it seemed fitting that as we prepared to gift Ashlee and her family precious time away from cancer together, we used Keaton's life savings to do so. Witnessing Ashlee and her family come home restored and full of hope was confirmation from the Lord that we were meant to continue creating ways for families battling cancer to get away together in honor of Keaton. God began to stir a strong passion in the Coker family's hearts to give to other families what they had been given regardless of the age of the cancer patient. Simply stated, they wanted to come alongside families walking through a cancer journey to help them make memories that transcend time.  

As our organization evolved, we began doing this by hosting weekend retreats at family-friendly resorts filled with comedy teams, musical entertainment, and inspirational speakers. We supply laughter when it is in short supply, infuse hope when circumstances look bleak, and provide families time together when cancer has stolen too much. Toward the end of his life, when cancer had stolen Keaton's ability to communicate verbally, he would respond to questions with a smile in his eye and the “thumbs up” sign. We loved his positive spirit, and we want our foundation to carry that positive focus into a world teeming with hurting families. Thus, Thumbs Up Mission was born.

 

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:21 

 

MISSION

Our mission is to fortify families where a parent or child is fighting cancer.

Our focus is to battle fear by infusing hope, inspiring laughter, and instilling an eternal perspective in each family we serve.

 

WHAT WE DO

​WHO

  • We serve families where a parent or child has cancer.

  • The family must have school age children (K - 12). 

  • Our retreats focus on the family as a whole. We know it can be hard to get time off from work or take vacation but we hope you will take the time to attend as a family unit.

  • First priority is given to eligible families who have never attended a retreat before. We do accept a few families each retreat who have previously attended one retreat in the past - if space is available. 

  • All families are welcome to apply regardless of race, religious affiliation, financial status or demographic location.

RETREAT ACTIVITIES

  • The retreat is a time for your family to find rest, experience joy, reconnect and ultimately find hope in God. Gatherings are planned each morning and evenings that we ask you to participate in. Each afternoon you will have free time to enjoy optional activities at your leisure. 

  • Family Host (volunteers) will be assisting you throughout the weekend by helping with your meals, spending time with your family, and navigate the scheduled activities. 

BASIC GUIDELINES

  • No alcohol or smoking is allowed during the retreat.

  • No firearms or weapons of any kind are allowed anywhere during the retreat.

  • No pets are allowed at the retreat.

  • Parents are responsible for the actions of all family members.

  • Parents must accompany all children to the water park or pool.

  • Retreat Families are not to solicit any gifts or services from staff, Family Hosts, businesses or the community during or after the retreat.

  • Families must provide transportation to and from the retreat.

  • A nurse or doctor will be available during the retreats to administer basic first aid and access situations to determine if more advance medical care is needed. Retreat Families are responsible to bring and administer their own medications and treatments.

APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS

  • Medical Professionals may refer the family, or the family may apply directly

  • Click the 'Apply Now' button below to complete the application. Fill out all required info and SUBMIT!

  • A staff member will contact you 1-2 weeks after the referral has been submitted.

 

MEET THE TEAM

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Sara has a background in Human Development and Family Sciences with a degree from the University of Georgia. Sara worked for Make-A-Wish Georgia for 6 years before coming to serve at Thumbs Up Mission. Sara resides in Sandy Springs, Georgia. In her spare time, Sara loves reading, baking, drinking coffee, and traveling.

Miles Coker

CEO, Founder

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BIO COMING SOON

Dick Baxter

Family Relations Director

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Sara Lawrence

Development Director

Sharon Coker

Founder

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Tracey Curtin

Family Relations Specialist

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Marybeth Cook

Aunt, Speaker

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Marybeth resides in Norcross, Georgia. She is married to Keith and they have two sons, Braxton and Thayer. Marybeth uses her gift of storytelling to impact retreat guests. Marybeth loves to be outdoors and spend time with her family.

Abbey Wysocki

Operations Director

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BOARD OF DIRECTORS

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