Remembrance Into Action
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 husband, Avi 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 and quickly searched for ways to support others facing similar circumstances, as helping people is what she loved to do. She found the Colorectal Cancer Alliance and its Blue Hope Bash, the nonprofit’s premier annual fundraising gala. She wanted to raise money for screening, research, and awareness. 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 and with the help of those who love and miss Michelle, the Michelle Benaim Memorial Fund has already provided local access to screening for symptomatic patients and generously raised more than $1 million to support Colorectal Cancer Alliance’s programs.
The Michelle Benaim Memorial Fund supports low and no-cost colorectal cancer screening for people who could not otherwise afford or would not have access to screening. Screening is the primary way to reduce incidence of colorectal cancer.
Lisa, age 58: "Without the assistance of your colonoscopy program, I would not have been able to afford my colonoscopy. As a person who only works part-time and can’t afford medical insurance, I’m very thankful for this program. Screening is a top priority for me since I have a family history of cancer."
In 2021, an estimated 149,500 Americans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer – a deadly but preventable disease – yet a third of at-risk adults have not taken the step to get 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. Utilizing the Michelle Benaim Memorial Fund, the Alliance has implemented several multifaceted national campaigns to raise awareness of the power of screening.
“Don’t Assume” Awareness Campaign | Washington, D.C.
“Tomorrow Can’t Wait” | Washington, D.C.
“Screening During COVID-19” | Nationwide
Understanding why colorectal cancer is on the rise in those under the age of 50 remains a mystery. In 2020, the Alliance funded a new research grant using proceeds from the Michelle Benaim Memorial Fund, The Role of the Microbiome and Immunity in Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer, to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Kimmie Ng, MD, MPH. She is investigating how the microbiome is different in CRC patients diagnosed at an age younger than 50 years old, compared to older patients and healthy individuals, and then examining whether those differences lead to worse tumor growth and weakened immunity against cancer, particularly among the youngest patients in their 20s and 30s. Findings from Dr. Ng’s project will provide a better understanding of what an “unfavorable” microbiome is within each decade of life, and what impact that has on the body’s immune system to protect against CRC. The knowledge will then be used to discover new ways to change the microbiome to improve the immune response against CRC and develop more precise ways to screen and treat people at different stages of life.
The Alliance is grateful to all who loved Michelle Benaim and continue to fund the work of the Colorectal Cancer Alliance that was so important to her. Moving forward, the Michelle Benaim Memorial Fund will continue to raise awareness of colorectal cancer and the importance of screening in prevention and early detection as well as provide financial assistance for underserved populations across the country.