Tap Cancer Out: The Panda Connection

In the mix of big tournaments taking place, like the Abu Dhabi Pro the week prior and the Eddie Bravo Invitational taking place the same day, you may not have heard about a very special tournament: Tap Cancer Out. Hillary and I spent our Saturday in Stratford, CT. at their tenth event and their fifth in Stratford. This is the longest running TCO tournament and has become the biggest attracting over 450 competitors and raising over $100,000, shattering their goal of $80,000.

Inverted Gear has been a TCO sponsor since 2012. I met Jon Thomas, the mastermind behind the organization, when I ordered a shirt and a few patches so I could wear them at the New York Open. My mom was going through chemo at the time, and I wanted to help her fight in every small way that I could. When my package got lost in the mail—Jon used to ship everything out of a spare bedroom much like myself—he offered to hand deliver them to the tournament. I met with Jon after I had done competing, just before I was called to claim my medals. Jon later told me I was the first person to wear TCO gear on an IBJJF podium.

We started Sponsoring TCO soon after, donating gis to the highest fundraisers for each tournament.

And this is part of what makes TCO a great organization. It operates much differently than a typical jiu-jitsu tournament. Instead of just paying to compete, a fundraising page is created automatically when you sign up. Once you fundraise enough, you get to compete for free and you can win awesome gear from TCO and other awesome brands like 93 brand and Manto. After the event, proceeds go to the charity of the year. TCO has made donations to Lymphoma and Leukemia Society, St. Baldrick’s, and this year the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

Jon, his wife Becky, and the rest of the Tap Cancer Our crew have worked tirelessly to make these tournaments great experiences. Their leadership coupled with the very real difference these tournaments make has inspired and molded a completely unique tournament culture. Competitors know that there is more at stake than a medal, so they take losses more graciously and spend less time arguing with referees.

When everyone in the room is there for a cause, the tone is tangibly different. It’s amazing.

And it’s just getting started.

Hillary and I are looking forward to supporting TCO for many years to come. Our TCO collaboration gis are still available through the TCO store in black and white. If you already have those in your collection, add a few more or hold tight for our shipment of gray gis coming this summer.

If you haven’t supported or competed in a TCO event, get involved as soon as you can. The next time you’re on the tournament floor, say hi to me and Hillary. We don’t plan on missing a TCO tournament if we can help it. The cause means too much to us.

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