A 12-year-old boy who shaved his head as part of a fundraiser for cancer research found out that he had a brain tumor just two weeks later.
Benny Martinez, of Illinois, was the top fundraiser at his middle school and helped raise more than $1,700 for St. Baldrick’s Foundation, an organization that helps fund childhood cancer research, but he wasn’t expecting that one day those funds might help him.
“I just wanted to help out people with childhood cancer and help them have a normal life,” Benny told InsideEdition.com.
But during a family vacation in March 2016, his family noticed something was amiss.
“We were on spring break vacation in Orlando," Michelle Martinez, Benny’s mom, told InsideEdition.com. "We were hanging out at Universal Studios and we noticed that Benny was a little off balance in his walking. Then one night, he had a severe headache and vomiting and the next morning he didn’t really bounce back. These were some symptoms that he had been having and sort of off and on.”
Doctors initially thought it might be a stomach bug or just migraines, but his family took Benny to an emergency room and a CT scan was carried out.
The results showed that Benny had a walnut-sized tumor in the back of his brain that needed to be operated on immediately. He was diagnosed with a medulloblastoma — the most common type of childhood brain cancer.
The next day the 12-year-old underwent a 7-hour surgery to remove the tumor.
“We thought it was the ultimate irony,” said Martinez.
Now Benny, who continues to undergo chemo, is using his diagnosis to give back.
The family eventually reached out to St. Baldrick’s to find out if they could set up a page telling Benny’s story so that people could donate to the cause in honor of him. The organization quickly agreed.
Benny’s goal is $100,000 and since his diagnosis, he has managed to raise an impressive $52,000.
“Benny can’t do a whole lot of things for himself right now. He feels like he has to receive so much. Everybody has to help him. This is a way that he can actually help somebody else and do something. It’s very empowering for him,” Martinez said.
This year St. Baldrick’s will hold a fundraising event where people will once again shave their heads for cancer, and Benny will be the guest of honor.