What does U + ME equal? If you answered “US”, we should be friends–and you’ll probably enjoy this post. Today is Giving Tuesday, and I’m highlighting the Michael Cuccione Foundation to support childhood cancer research. The late Michael Cuccione was not only a talented actor/singer, but a two-time childhood cancer survivor. Today, the Michael Cuccione Foundation raises money to support childhood cancer research in Michael’s memory.
Allow me to set the scene for you. The year was 2000, and boy band mania was in full swing. NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, O-Town, 98 Degrees, and probably 20 other groups that I’m forgetting were vying for the attention of girls around the world.
Soon, MTV decided to throw its hat in the ring, releasing its first made-for-TV movie: 2Gether. The premise of the 2Gether movie was, essentially, a boy band parody. In the movie, a washed-up boy band manager makes it his mission to put together the next big group, traveling across the country to find 5 boys (well, 4 boys and 1 30-something man) to fit the 5 stereotypes of boy band members.
The group was comprised of, left to right, “The Older Brother” Doug Linus (Kevin Farley), “The Bad Boy” Mickey Parke (Alex Solowitz), “The Heartthrob” Jerry O’Keefe (played by Evan Farmer), “The Cute One” QT McKnight (Michael Cuccione), and “The Shy One” Chad Linus (Noah Bastian).
The 2Gether movie ends with the guys becoming a huge success as a group. What MTV didn’t expect was that the guys actually became a huge success in real life, too. What started as a parody with songs like “U + Me = Us” and “Say It, Don’t Spray It” had become real. 2Gether had a legitimate fanbase. People were buying the movie soundtrack, requesting their songs on TRL, and even wanting to see the guys on tour.
Because of the movie’s success, 2Gether recorded a second album and had their own spin-off TV series on MTV. They even opened for Britney Spears during her summer 2000 tour, and Mandy Moore appeared on their TV show. 2Gether was, dare I say, legit.
When 2Gether was on the scene in 2000, Michael Cuccione was just 15 years old. While his accomplishments with 2Gether are impressive, he had already overcome and achieved so much before landing his memorable role as QT.
On screen, Michael’s character, QT, suffered from a terminal illness. What made this detail interesting is that Michael himself was a 2-time childhood cancer survivor. He was originally diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1994 at age 9, and beat the disease after aggressive treatment. Although he relapsed the following year, he was able to beat cancer once again.
While undergoing cancer treatments, Michael was inspired to make a difference in the lives of other young people with cancer. He used his talents as a singer/songwriter to write and record his own CD and donate the money he raised to childhood cancer research. With the help of his family, he established the Michael Cuccione Foundation in 1996, at the age of 11. In addition to his CD, Michael also co-authored a book with his grandmother detailing his experiences as a childhood cancer survivor, and used these proceeds for his Foundation as well.
Unfortunately, the aggressive cancer treatments that Michael had been forced to undergo had damaged his lungs. He was unable to film some episodes of the 2Gether series because he was having respiratory issues, which ultimately required him to go onto a ventilator. Sadly, Michael died in the hospital just a few days after his 16th birthday.
His legacy now lives on with the Michael Cuccione Foundation, which is in its 27th year. The Foundation funds the Michael Cuccione Childhood Cancer Research Program at BC Children’s Hospital, which focuses on researching less-invasive treatments for childhood cancer patients–and, ultimately, finding a cure for childhood cancer.
This Giving Tuesday, I encourage you to visit the Michael Cuccione Foundation website to learn more about the mission and consider donating to support Michael’s legacy. You can also follow the Michael Cuccione Foundation on Instagram and Facebook to keep up with their efforts.