In 2011, to the shock of his family and friends, larger-than-life Larry Benjamin was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer at the age of 57, and he died just seven months after his diagnosis. While he enjoyed an occasional cigar on the golf course, Larry was considered a nonsmoker.
Larry was a well-loved and successful business owner in Minnesota. He is described as a loving husband, father, brother and friend who died too soon. Unfortunately, his was not the first life lost to lung cancer in his immediate family. Larry also lost his father and grandfather to lung cancer, and one of his sisters is a lung cancer survivor. The Benjamin family is made up of a mix of former smokers and never-smokers. As such, and even with this strong family history of lung cancer, early detection and screening is not available to current family members, as they are mostly nonsmokers. This backwards thinking about lung cancer has left them dedicated to helping improve the way our country views and treats lung cancer. In particular, they advocate for a universal preventative screening program that includes risk factors beyond smoking, such as second-hand smoke, radon or asbestos exposure, family history and more.
Larry’s wife, Mary Jane, hosted the Larry Benjamin Golf Classic for many years with help from the Benjamin family and friends. They donated the proceeds to A Breath of Hope Lung Foundation (ABOH) each year to support early detection and research. Larry’s brother, John and his wife, Wanda took over Northfield Lines after Larry’s death and became A Breath of Hope’s largest and most loyal Lung Run/Walk Twin Cities sponsors.
Eventually, more than $150,000 had been donated in honor of Larry making the Benjamin Family strong candidates for the ABOH Named Grant Program!
In 2016, A Breath of Hope proudly announced a national RFP for the first Larry Benjamin Early Detection Research Award. Following a vigorous vetting of submitted research proposals, a $150,000 lung cancer research fellowship was awarded to Dr. Tsay of NYU – a young researcher studying a unique set of microorganisms (microbiome) living in the airways of individuals with lung cancer. By defining this microbiome, he aims to understand how this “community” of microbes may contribute to lung cancer development and serve as a detection tool of early lung cancer. Find information about Dr. Jun-Chieh (James) Tsay of NYU’s School of Medicine, or view his progress reports.