Support from experience
Michelle Benaim Memorial Fund
Michelle Benaim was a vivacious wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend who celebrated life with laughter and warmth, especially with her three beloved children Alex, Sam, and Sophia. After Michelle’s young-onset colorectal cancer journey ended with her death in 2017, her family established the Michelle Benaim Memorial Fund to honor Michelle’s generous spirit and hands-on approach to making a difference in the lives of those most vulnerable to health disparities.
Michelle was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in August 2015. Not long after her diagnosis, she searched for ways to help people facing similar circumstances. This was typical of Michelle, who had volunteered with the Keen Gala, Fashion For Paws, The Bullis 5K, and at her children's school as PTA president. She found the Colorectal Cancer Alliance and its Blue Hope Bash, the nonprofit’s premier annual fundraising gala. She wished to raise money for screening and research. She wanted everyone to receive screening before they turned 50. Unfortunately, Michelle passed away just weeks before the 2017 Blue Hope Bash, which she co-chaired with her husband, Avi Benaim.
Under the leadership of the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, the Michelle Benaim Memorial Fund has already provided local access to screening for symptomatic patients and raised over $335,000 to support three primary initiatives closely aligned with the experience the Benaim family knows so well:
It is widely understood in the cancer community that a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming for the patient’s caregiver. It is the caregiver who takes on the lion’s share of home-life responsibilities while often providing the sole income. It is the caregiver who cleans up after their nauseated loved one gets sick. It is the caregiver who watches helplessly as their partner transforms physically from the disease and its treatment. To complicate matters, caregivers are sometimes the children of the patient, who can have added feelings of despair now that they are responsible for their parent’s wellbeing. And many times, it is the caregiver who is left alone on this earth when their loved one passes. Meanwhile, the difficulty of the caregiver’s role isn’t always well-understood by a caregiver’s loved ones. And, so, caregivers often struggle with their feelings and experiences in relative isolation.
The Alliance will create a Caregivers Program focused on the support and wellbeing of the caregiver community. The program will promote the informational, psychosocial, and financial needs of the spectrum of caregivers from young and adult children to spouses and other family members.
The main components of the program will include a caregiver’s summit, buddy pairings, financial assistance, specialized patient navigators and focused children’s support. In addition, the Alliance will form a Caregivers Advisory Board which will serve as a guiding force to ensure the caregiver voice is heard and represented in future Alliance programming and activities. Caregivers in the DC area will also benefit from hands-on participation from the Benaim family during local events.
Screening awareness and support
A dire 50,000 Americans lose their lives each year from colorectal cancer, and the number is growing rapidly for those under the age of 50. Most of these deaths could have—and should have—been prevented.
Screening is the number one way to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Despite its high incidence, colorectal cancer is unique in that it is one of the most preventable diseases and, if found early, most treatable forms of cancer. And the best part is, screening is easy! From colonoscopy to at-home stool tests, there’s an option for everyone.
The Michelle Benaim Memorial Fund will support low and no-cost colorectal cancer screening for people under age 50, who could not otherwise afford or would not have access to screening.
National Screening Awareness Campaign
This year, more than 135,000 Americans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer – a potentially fatal disease. When detected early, colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable and treatable forms of cancer, yet a third of at-risk adults have not taken that first step to be screened. Fear, misinformation, financial barriers and lack of understanding for alternative screening methods stand in the way of a potentially life-saving screening for thousands of people every year. With the American Cancer Society expecting 50,630 deaths this year in the United States due to colorectal cancer, we must do more to raise awareness about the importance of screening and the urgency to be screened according to guidelines.
In 2019, the Alliance will initiate a national awareness media campaign designed to change the conversation about colorectal cancer screening. Using a combination of tactics, the Alliance will partner with a national marketing firm to launch city- and region-specific outreach designed to increase awareness for colorectal cancer screening and move people to action. What is unique about this campaign is it will be hyper targeted to provide tailored messages based on age, race, socioeconomic status and gender. Moreover, it will be designed both for those of the screening age and those below the screening age who are experiencing symptoms.