|Ben shown in the middle|
Highly difficult circumstances can produce the truest, most astounding heroes. I realized such a fact when I interviewed Ben Nussbaumer, an incredible thirteen-year-old boy who has conquered lymphoma and is now in the midst of developing his very own non-profit. As he relayed the details of his experiences and goals, I was touched by what a compassionate, striving attitude he holds, even after being forced, at such a young age, to combat cancer. Not only has he channeled his relief into gratitude, but also his gratitude into goodwill. Truly, Ben is a hero, through and through.
Just last summer, Ben was a patient at the Walter Reed National Military Center, grappling with the fact that his life, at least until his health was restored, would consist of a lot more rounds of chemotherapy and a lot fewer of the enjoyable experiences one should have in their childhood. A triplet, a younger brother, and an owner of dogs and cats, he mentioned how strongly he missed his home life while confined to a hospital room.
Luckily, though, since the Red Cross was situated a mere wheelchair ride away from the hospital, Ben’s journey to reach full wellness was infinitely more bearable. With access to simple, yet uplifting treasures such as movies, Beanie Babies (69 of these comforting, adorable critters to be exact), new clothes, art supplies, therapy dogs, and, of course, Legos, there were finally some spots of brightness for him. Knowing that the cart of goodies would eventually make its rounds was that essential boost of energy Ben needed while undergoing his treatments – and also the fact that Parks and Recreation was available to watch, he told me in good humor.
October 2015 was when Ben was finally released after months of admirable perseverance, and, as opposed to removing himself completely from that period of his life, he thought up ways that he could give back, even as a minor. Thus, with the help of his older brother, he crafted bracelets to distribute to figures within the Red Cross, the organization that had given him so much joy while going through treatments for lymphoma. These bracelets served as a heartfelt “thank you” from Ben, who hopes when the volunteers look at their wrists, they are reminded of how critical their work was in his life. Ben is now able to move forward and enjoy being a kid again.
This was only the start. This remarkable teenager was aware that he had not been the only young cancer patient out there, so he began to collect and donate toys such as Legos, which had been so significant during his journey, for all of those children currently bedridden at hospitals, feeling a little starved of comfort. This idea became the seed for his larger vision, a non-profit organization titled, Building Better Days, which is in the process of becoming fully established right now. With Ben’s ambition, and his sweet mother Pam’s unceasing support of his dreams, we have not doubts that Building Better Days will soon spark an infinite number of smiles and glowing hearts.
Ultimately, the Red Cross is incredibly lucky to have impacted the life of Ben Nussbaumer, a young man who now aspires to earn his black belt in taekwondo, to earn his Eagle Scout Award, and to light up hospital patients’ darkest days.