Benson Klein was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in April of 1998, after back pain from a tennis fall lingered for more than a year. After the diagnosis, Benson recalls, "Everything happened on a very fast track."
Benson's wife, Carol, quickly found the IMF. She ordered the IMF InfoPack and back issues of Myeloma Today. Even with so much going on in their lives, they immediately felt that the IMF was a special place. "We knew right away it was the organization we wanted to become involved with," Carol says.
Carol engrossed herself in learning about the disease, but Benson could not. "When I got to the part that average life expectancy was only 3 years, I stopped reading," he says.
But Benson never stopped thinking about what he could do to make a difference. He was friendly with Bill Rechin and Don Wilder, the creators of the comic strip Crock, which would occasionally feature a character named Trooper Benson. Bill and Don gave Benson permission to use the Trooper Benson character on t-shirts and caps for fundraising purposes. Benson called the IMF, which helped him solidify the project.
The idea was a hit. Benson and Carol have since held additional Trooper Benson fundraising campaigns, as well as a big 60th birthday bash for Benson, at which guests were asked to make donations to the IMF in lieu of birthday gifts. In total, Carol and Benson's efforts have raised over $250,000, including four $40,00 research grants. Their dedication to research is unflagging. Benson has appeared as a guest speaker before the Society of Research Administrators, who oversee distribution of research resources, in order to share his experiences as a patient who benefits from such research.
Carol and Benson first met Susie Novis and Dr. Brian Durie in person in 1999, after the first Trooper Benson fundraising campaign, and after Benson's bone marrow transplant. "We were in Santa Barbara on vacation," Carol says, "and they met us up there for dinner. Though it was the first time we were meeting, I immediately felt like these were people we already knew well. That night really solidified for us that we had found the right organization."
The Fourth Annual Robert A. Kyle Lifetime Achievement Award Dinner will not be the first event Carol and Benson Klein have chaired for the IMF. They have filled that role for two IMF Galas, most recently in 2002, when Benson also had the opportunity to present a Quality of Life Award to Deborah Doss, RN, OCN, who has been part of Benson's treatment team since the very beginning.
But they agree that serving as Dinner Chairs for this year's Kyle Award Dinner is an extra special honor. "I have the absolute highest respect for both Dr. Kyle, for whom this event is named, and for Dr. Durie, the honoree," Benson says. "Plus, they both have great senses of humor."
Benson's myeloma has now been in remission for over 7 years. "Look, no one wants to be diagnosed with myeloma," he says. "But out of a bad situation came something really positive."
"We enjoy giving back to a community that's given us so much," Carol adds. "Susie, Brian, and the staff of the IMF are such wonderful professionals. We always enjoy working on events that the IMF thinks are worthy."
For information on participating in the Fourth Annual Robert A. Kyle Lifetime Achievement Award dinner or making a donation in Dr. Durie’s honor, please contact Candace McDonald by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 800-452-CURE.
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