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Family honors Keaton Coker with charity
Keaton Coker
The late Keaton Coker shares a moment with a Flowery Branch High School teammate.

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To learn how you can help Thumbs Up Mission, contact Miles Coker by email at or contact the mission by mail at P.O. Box 1517, Gainesville, GA 30501.

When Keaton Coker was struggling with brain cancer, his positivity was so persistent his family found it almost hard to believe.

Coker, a football player for Flowery Branch High School, died this summer, but his father, Miles Coker, says that positive spirit stayed with him until the end.

“His last year, especially his last few months, he did not complain. He did not feel sorry for himself,” Miles Coker said. “When I say never, I mean never. It was not an issue to him. His faith was that strong.”

Now, Keaton’s family is trying to honor that positive attitude by making a positive difference for families affected by brain cancer.

The family is forming a nonprofit foundation in Keaton’s name called the Thumbs Up Mission.

The name is a reflection of Keaton’s attitude.

“The last few weeks, if you asked him how he’s doing, he may be too tired to say good, but he’d give you a thumbs up,” Miles Coker said.

His positivity was so unwavering, Miles Coker said, that, “if they made a movie about him, you wouldn’t believe it.”

The Christian mission will provide trips to families where a parent of children ages 5 to 18 is suffering from brain cancer. The family takes its inspiration from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which sent the family on a trip with Keaton.

“It was just an amazing blessing to our family,” Miles Coker said. “When a child has cancer like that, it’s on your mind all the time, but we were able to take our mind off of it and have a great time.”

Miles Coker said he wants to be able to provide the same thing to families where a parent, rather than a child, is suffering from terminal illness. Miles Coker said the foundation is in the process of applying for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit status, and will begin by serving North Georgia families affected by brain cancer.

Since Keaton had expressed an interest in ministry, the foundation will include a religious element.

“Keaton was in ministry, and I want to do ministry,” Miles Coker said. “So I said that (Thumbs Up Mission) could actually be his ministry if we bring Jesus
into the equation.”

Miles Coker said it was Keaton’s religion that helped him maintain his positive spirit.

“He just had incredible faith and had no fear, literally, because of it,” Miles Coker said.

Keaton was diagnosed with brain cancer the summer before his junior year in 2012, and died at age 18, shortly after graduating high school. He continued to play football even after his diagnosis.

His coach, Chris Griffin, remembered him as an inspiration to his teammates.

“I could make a list of all his amazing characteristics that went far beyond football,” Griffin said in July. “He was humble, kind, had an amazing work ethic and was completely unselfish.”

“(Keaton) was a quiet guy, but people loved him,” Miles Coker said. “He led by example.”