LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Lane Goodwin, a small-town boy who won a huge Facebook following for his thumbs-up attitude about his cancer, has lost his battle with the disease.
The 13-year-old Kentuckian died Wednesday night, eliciting an outpouring from his heartbroken followers.
The announcement of Lane's death came on his Facebook page, which had 369,000 followers as of Thursday. The announcement said the boy from Beech Grove who loved fishing and soccer had "gained his angel wings."
University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari was among the many whose thoughts and prayers were with Lane's family.
"Let's all give one more thumbs up for Lane," Calipari tweeted.
Lane was an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan, and some Cardinals fans held up signs in support of Lane during the baseball playoffs.
Lane was diagnosed with Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer, in 2010. He completed chemotherapy treatments late that year, but had a relapse in the summer of 2011.
The Thumbs-up for Lane campaign, started as a way to encourage the boy and his family, spread worldwide on social media. His followers included country music stars, athletes, politicians and Ernie Brown — the cable television star known as "The Turtleman."
Brown was Lane's favorite celebrity. The homespun star known for getting rid of unwanted reptiles and other critters with his bare hands had visited Lane's home in western Kentucky a few weeks ago. They hit it off from the start, Brown recalled Thursday.
Lane told Brown how he once hooked a shark. He showed Brown his room, filled with pictures of "Turtleman."
"We sat there and talked and talked and just had a good old time," said Brown, who choked up with emotion while remembering his young friend. "We got up and did the 'Turtleman' dance until he got worn out."
Brown said Lane was an inspiration to others.
"People really looked up to him," he added. "He sure made his mark in the world and he'll never be forgotten."
Lane's family issued a statement remembering his "beautiful smile" and his Christian faith." The family thanked his many supporters for their "incredible display of human kindness."
"We have been amazed and touched by the worldwide thumbs-up movement in honor of Lane," the family said.
"Lane believed that the awareness this movement brought for childhood cancers would lead to a cure. Lane's legacy will live on as we move forward with the commitment we made to him to find a cure."
Funeral services were set for Monday and will be streamed live over the Internet, according to a post on the Facebook page.
Associated Press writers Janet Cappiello and Dylan Lovan in Louisville contributed to this report.