Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

January 20, 2014

HOPE: There’s an app for that

Morehead men create way to help brain cancer patients

Lana Bellamy
The Independent

MOREHEAD — Some mobile apps are used for entertainment, created by developers looking to make their mark with the next great trend. For three Morehead men, their app will give hope for brain cancer patients.

When Lowell Thompson’s sister, Teresa Mason, was suddenly diagnosed with the most rare and deadliest forms of brain cancer, he knew their time together was limited.

With a wide support group behind her, Lowell and his friends, Wesley Mason and David Boarman, put their heads together to find ways to make the process less painful for her and the family.

A large part of their assistance rested in assuring medical finances were secure, but with her mental health deteriorating at a rapid pace, they were desperate to help her hang onto brain function as long as possible.

“Teresa’s tumor was in a location of her brain that affected speech and word recollection and recognition,” Boarman said. “So in the early stages, she would play word games. She couldn’t communicate as clearly as she used to, but she could still recognize and recall words on paper.”

But the men soon realized the word searches she pored over were not challenging enough. She needed something more.

“Wesley and Lowell were in the hospital watching her and got the idea to develop a word game to help her with that — something more challenging than those word searches that was in the form of an app,” Boarman said.

And so, SeeWord was conceived.

Boarman said Wesley had graphic and web design contacts in Los Angeles that agreed to help with coding overall design of the game and within a few months, the group had created a word game available to anyone in the world for free plays and downloads.

But this is no typical word game.

“Up to 50 percent of all money made from SeeWord goes into the funds of our foundation,” Thompson said.

Thompson, Boarman and Mason jointly created the Thompson-Mason Brain Cancer Foundation, which officially launched Jan. 1, inspired by Teresa’s journey.

The foundation was founded primarily to relieve the burden of cost for caregivers, family and patients who cannot afford the traveling, appointments or treatments necessary for their best shot at survival.

Thompson said he and his wife were fortunate enough to have the finances needed to accompany Mason on her trips to University Hospital in Cleveland, but he knows not all are so lucky.

“In two trips, my wife and I were out almost $2,000 at University Hospital. What if someone else can’t afford it and then they don’t end up going? They’d lost out on that chance,” he said.

As of Wednesday, Thompson said the foundation had collected around $3,700 through donations and profit from the app.

SeeWord, though free to download and play, gets profit when people choose to buy extra components that enhance their gaming experience or earn them more points.

Thompson said he hopes gamers tap into their competitive spirits enough to want to purchase these profit-maximizing options and ultimately help the foundation.

The app has steadily remained part of Apple’s Top 15 word-game applications, reaching as high as No. 8 last week.

They have received a number of pledges for monthly donations, but with the foundation only being active for two weeks, they are still working out eligibility criteria for financial recipients.

Thompson said operations had to take a temporary break when Teresa lost her battle with brain cancer on Jan. 8, but they hope to get things moving again soon.

For more information about the foundation or to donate, go to braincancerhelp.org.

LANA BELLAMY can be reached at lbellamy@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.