It was a special moment for father Kenneth “Clutch” Thomas and his son on July 21 when he danced after learning the 15-month-old would be leaving hospital for the first time since being diagnosed with leukemia.
In an Instagram post, Thomas said he woke up to find out the news and had to dance a freestyle number to Ciara’s “Level Up.” The New Jersey father had been documenting his son’s battle with cancer on social media, and hashtagged the video #levelupchallenge, unknowingly creating a video that has gone viral.
The Level Up Challenge was put forward by the R&B star earlier this summer based on her song, inviting fans to show off their best moves while also sharing how they plan to “level up” or better themselves, Billboard.com reports. Celebrities including Chris Pratt and Kelly Clarkson have participated in the challenge.
“He’s dancing with me,” Thomas told NBC 10 News. “He’s on beat clapping and it’s like you can’t ask for anything better than that in life. It’s priceless.”
By hashtagging his video, it’s been viewed more than 2.6-million times as of Friday night and received more than 112,000 likes on Instagram. Ciara has even reposted the video to her own account.
“It’s been really popping since then,” Thomas told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “When she reposted it, that took it over the top.”
The family has been receiving messages from people all over the world, with many saying they’ve been inspired by Thomas’ son Kristian’s story. He said other patients at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where Kristian had been staying, had seen the video too and were using it as inspiration to fight.
Thomas’ dancing background comes from being an instructor — he and his wife Josilyne own a dance studio in New Jersey — which he put to good use in the video. According to the Inquirer, Kristian was born with Down syndrome and a blood disorder, with doctors telling Thomas and his wife he could develop leukemia at some point.
Kristian received the diagnosis on June 19.
“In my mind as a father and as a believer and a leader of this family, I went into quarterback mode: What’s the plan? How are we going to make this happen? How will we get him well?” he said. “It hit our whole family.”
They’ve spent every night at the hospital with their son, while friends and family look after their other three children.
Insurance has covered medical care, but the ongoing travel led Thomas to make shirts that read #FightKristian in hopes of selling them. The shirts, along with his Instagram posts, led to donations.
Since the video went viral, Thomas has raised more than US$10,500.
Getting the news that her son can go home and then seeing Thomas dance brought a smile to Josilyne.
“Seeing him full of life, happy, dancing, it truly helps me to get through,” she said.
Kristian did return to the hospital on Wednesday and is expected to return for a second round of chemotherapy this Monday, but his parents are hoping people take their son’s story and use it to “flip” their own situations and “change the perspective.”