Cancer, a friend, a stranger and the ocean

I. Cancer

“You have two choices: you can either live, or you can dwell. I chose to live, and it’s obviously paying off.” — Katie Wood

Katie Wood is a 21-year-old from Colorado who suffers from Glioblastomas (GBM), a rare form of brain cancer. The survival rates for GBM tumors are less than 1 in 10. She recently had her sixth brain surgery. After given only 18 months to live, Katie created a bucket list. Her list was modest: see her favorite band, get a telescope, see the ocean. The first two she checked off in no time. All that was left was a trip to the ocean.

Katie with her dog.

II. A Friend

Lilly Regina is living with stage 4 cancer herself. Despite her own diagnosis, she has been tirelessly doing what best friends do best, supporting her best friend. Between her own treatments and her full time job, Lilly came up with the idea of CrowdRising the funds to get Katie to the ocean.


The campaign started out slowly. Friends and family contributed $25 here, $100 there. They needed $5,000 to buy an RV and drive to California. By the end of April, they were still about $2,000 short and donations had tapered off.

III. A Stranger

“Wouldn’t that be kinda cool to help a stranger out?” — Ryan Carey

Ryan Carey is a tech veteran. He worked at YouTube before Google even bought it. He’s been innovating in video ever since. And he came across Katie’s CrowdRise fundraiser on Facebook a few days before his birthday.

Ryan Carey.

Lilly’s fundraiser resonated with Ryan for a number of reasons, the fact that this was a 21 year old who had never seen the ocean, and who was living with incurable cancer hit Ryan particularly hard.

“The part about the ocean hit home — everyone should get a chance to see the ocean — that’s a big deal… and something about the bucket list. It wasn’t ‘this is on my list to do in the next year. No, this is something I want to do because I’m only 21 and I may not have much time left.’”

Ryan was tired (as most of us are) of the Facebook birthday platitudes (“HBD!”, “Happy birthday!”, etc). And he loved the idea of helping someone he didn’t know with something that felt so simple — give this stranger across the country the chance to check the last item off her bucket list.

“Everything to me about their campaign seemed possible — I read it and thought, ‘Oh we can do this. This should be done, and it could be done.’ It was almost like, ‘if i don’t try what the hell is wrong with me?’”

So he made a quick video and posted it on his birthday. When people went to post on his wall, they were met with Ryan’s request:

Donations on Katie’s CrowdRise page more than doubled overnight — within two days, they had met their goal.

With all of this goodwill and support, they set out in an RV to the west coast.

IV. The Ocean

After reaching the coast, and seeing the ocean for the very first time, Lilly and Katie were met by some members of the CrowdRise team at the historic Venice Beach, who surprised them with surfing lessons courtesy of Aloha Brothers Surf Lessons — something that they’d always wanted to do.

“It’s surreal. It feels like a dream. It’s so blue, a lot bluer than I imagined.”

The very next day, while being interviewed on The Hallmark Channel’s Home and Family, they were met with quite a surprise: Ryan himself. He joined Katie and Lilly on air as they talked about what the journey meant for them — and how a little bit of online good from a stranger, and a lot of love from a friend who knows where you’re coming from, can go a long way.

Like all the way to the ocean.

If you’re inspired by Katie, Lilly and Ryan’s story, please click the green Recommend button so others may find this or follow Decent Humans on Medium and add notes or questions into the margin.

Decent Humans is a series of stories spotlighting the incredible community we witness on CrowdRise doing amazing things for good. By sharing their stories of aid, altruism, and passion we hope others will be inspired to live a charitable life.