Nick Ost, 19, is the founder of the nonprofit Sacks of Love, which aims to spread awareness of testicular cancer. A 2012 graduate of Puyallup High School, Ost is currently studying entrepreneurship at the University of Oregon.
How did Sacks of Love come about?
It was March of my senior year. A friend and I were trying to figure out how to do something that was positive. We targeted male testicular cancer because it’s such an awkward topic, and there’s no Livestrong or Susan G. Komen behind testicular cancer, the most common cancer among men ages 15–35.
We came up with the idea for the logo, and a friend designed it, and then I basically went around my high school just showing it to people and trying to get as many people as I could to [give], like, $20 up front [for a T-shirt with the logo].
We maybe made $150 the first time, and we donated it all. And we did that three or four times, just making black shirts with the logo.
Is this what high school seniors do now, launch nonprofits?
I’ve always been a really busy person, and I used to focus all that energy on competitive swimming. Then I injured my shoulder. I wanted to do something, because I was just sitting around with all this energy.
So your athletic background impacted your passion for this topic?
The big thing, actually, is that both my parents are doctors. I heard those [health] messages throughout my life.
Where do your donations go?
Right now, it all has to be internal, because our 501(c)(3) application is pending. So it all goes toward awareness: ads, printing cards to give to doctors’ offices … just trying to get young men, especially, started early with self-checking so that they keep that habit as they go through life. Eventually, we’ll be able to donate to anybody involved in male cancer research and awareness. You can check out a public service announcement we made here.
So you give out instructions for men on how to check their testicles?
Yes. It’s pretty simple. We’ve got a .PDF you can print out, and it walks you through — thumb and forefinger all the way around, what you’re looking for, all that.
Is this embarrassing to talk about?
You kind of have to be [direct] when your logo is a heart with a ball sack on it. If we get that reaction from people, that’s what we’re trying to do.
What are some of those ballsy slogans you use?
“Saving one nut at a time” — that’s a T-shirt with a squirrel on it. “The crown jewels of the family,” with a crown over the testicle logo. “Busting our balls to save yours.” We have T-shirts and socks, and what we try to do is make it like cool streetwear but humorous at the same time, to create a supportive community around the disease.
How else have you raised cash?
Our biggest thing was a 5K run last October. We got 400 people out to the event, and we raised $10,000.
How do you tailor your message to teenagers and college-age guys?
That’s the foundation of the organization: trying to make it cool and also responsible . . . you know, sometimes younger guys don’t want to be super responsible, so you have to mix in the cool there. With our branding, it’s all about how risks are great to take, but this is a risk that’s not worth taking.
Do you talk to women, too?
Definitely. One of the main ways that testicular cancer is discovered is because the man’s significant other noticed.
How have you connected with the cancer patient and survivor community?
A survivor contacted us through Facebook and said, “There’s a huge need for this organization, I really want to see you guys keep working at this.” His name was Sergio, from Texas. I ended up meeting him, and he was a big inspiration. People kept contacting us. And some of those people have gone on to help us, volunteer, give advice.
You’re a business major — what do you hope to do with that?
I want to be an entrepreneur. I always want to keep working on Sacks of Love and nonprofits, but also I want to be my own boss.
What’s next for Sacks of Love?
We’re teaming up with the Tacoma Rainiers to host a game in June and have a survivor throw the first pitch. We have to sell 500 tickets to break even.
We also want to do our 5K again this year, upping the ante to get 1,000 people.
And yes, we’re going to make boxer briefs.