Ben’s short story is that he passed away from an infection resulting from Acute Myeloid Leukemia on September 3, 2009 at Children’s National after a six-year battle. It was one month before his 12th birthday. Ben was the oldest of two children born to Tom and Clare Goldfogle of Silver Spring, Maryland. His sister Anna misses her brother, but together with her parents, shares great memories of him.
How Ben lived his life, however, is far more interesting.
Friendly and compassionate, funny and insightful, Ben made a lasting impression on everyone who knew him. He grew up in the Stonegate neighborhood, attended the elementary school and St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, and enjoyed scouting and spending time with friends and family.
While Ben faced enormous health challenges that threatened his life as early as kindergarten, everyone saw a courage and brave kindness in him. He always tried to do the right thing — honest to the very core — and cared for others before himself.
When he couldn’t do what other kids could, he found joy in other things. When he could do what other kids could, he was in the middle of the excitement, or more often than not, leading the way.
When Ben was feeling well, he always wanted friends to come to the house or to go to their houses to play. Many kids and adults played a Wii game or two with Ben. He was perceptive beyond his years, with a sense of humor that would catch you off guard.
Ben loved ribs — his favorite meal. It was always such a joy to see the barbecue sauce all over his face while he was eating them. He loved his summers at the beach and at the lake house in Michigan. Those were trips, along with his Make a Wish trip, his family will always remember. He had a soft spot for animals too — dogs, cats, hamsters, gerbils, gunea pigs, birds — you name it.
One of his favorite things to do at the hospital to pass the time was to offer Harry Potter jelly beans to everyone — some were not so pleasant tasting, but everyone was always very gracious about taking one from him. Harry Potter books and movies were always a favorite of Ben’s.
While Ben would complain about not feeling well, he never, ever complained about his situation. He never dwelled on the fact that he had leukemia or cancer, but if asked, would tell people that he had it without hesitation. Instead, Ben talked about the future, what it would be like when this was all behind us.
Ben’s treatment and schooling
Children’s National Health System is a special place where many area children are treated for the unspeakable — cancer, blood disorders and other horrible illnesses. Children also travel from far away for the services of the wonderful hospital staff. Ben's family has fond memories of working with techs and nurses to attending physicians in all specialty areas at Children's on Ben’s care.
This race starts and ends at Stonegate Elementary School where Ben started in first grade after his kindergarten diagnosis of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia or ALL. Because the integration back into school was so difficult after his diagnosis, Ben repeated that year. By the time he was half-way through 4th grade, Ben had relapsed, this time with AML. He left school right after winter break and in 2008, at the age of 10, he had two stem cell transplants. The first was in the spring, an umbilical cord blood transplant through the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) that only put him in remission for about a month. That August, Ben had his second transplant through the NMDP in which he received stem cells from the bone marrow of a donor, and was once again in remission. For the rest of 2008 and early 2009, Ben was doing fairly well — the NMDP gave Ben a chance at survival.
In fact in early 2009, Ben was able to visit the classrooms of his 5th grade teachers to receive tutoring, and to supplement what he was getting at home. All of Ben’s teachers and tutors were outstanding.
But the spring and summer of 2009 were difficult times for Ben. He fought a common side effect from bone marrow transplants called graft-versus-host disease which puts a lot of pressure on the immune system. Sadly, in August 2009, despite everyone’s best efforts, Ben developed pneumonia which eventually took his life in September in the hospital PICU.
This race honors Ben’s amazing spirit, and the many other children who battle life-threatening illnesses every day. Run or walk this race for Ben, and for the other heroic children out there. Do it because they can’t.