TORONTO — Twenty-five-year-old cancer survivor Mark Benmoise’s commitment to raising funds and awareness about the disease has earned him the designation as a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada (LLSC) Honoured Hero.
On Oct. 3, Benmoise will be joining hundreds of Torontonians for the second time on the Light the Night Walk, an event run by LLSC, which raises funds for Canadian researchers who focus on leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, and Hodgkin’s disease.
Benmoise, who is one of 90,000 Canadians living with, or in remission from blood cancers, raised about $5,500 last year for the walk.
This year, Benmoise wants to smash that total by organizing a charity basketball tournament that he hopes will help rake in at least $25,000.
The first annual Shoot 4 A Cure event, scheduled for Aug. 12 at Westmount Collegiate Institute in Thornhill, Ont., is a charity 3-on-3 basketball tournament.
He said so far, eight teams have registered and there is no limit as to how many teams can participate. Each team, made up of four players, is required to raise a minimum of $400.
“The way we set it up is that they sign up at our website (www.makeurmark.ca) and then I add them to our Light the Night team. They’ll have their own personal donation page where people can go online and donate to their team,” he said.
Benmoise has been fundraising for LLSC since he beat his cancer – nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin lymphoma, an uncommon subtype of Hodgkin lymphoma – last year.
He said his battle began about six years ago when he started getting violently ill.
His doctor suggested he had suffered from a bout of food poisoning, but when it happened again, he convinced his doctor to run some tests.
Over the next three years, Benmoise underwent a series of CT scans, blood tests and biopsies, but it wasn’t until he had surgery to remove his slightly swollen lymph nodes that they were able to give him a diagnosis.
After successful rounds of chemotherapy, Benmoise is now in remission and dedicated to offering support to the countless others who are struggling with the disease, and working towards a cure.
Benmoise joins a three-year-old girl named Isabella Leone, who is currently battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia as one of Toronto’s honoured heroes. He said he’s determined to live up to the LLSC’s expectations.
“Part of the reason they said they wanted me to come on board was because of my positivity and my drive to raise awareness about the cause,” he said.
“When I was selected I really wanted to make a big boom so I wanted to start something to help raise money for the cause.”
To date, Benmoise said he’s raised more than $3,600, but expects interest in his tournament to pique in the coming weeks.
The event is more than just a basketball tournament, he insists.
“We’re going to have a 50-50 draw, we’re going to raffle off some prizes, we’re going to have a silent auction,” he said.
“A DJ company called Spirit Entertainment will be offering their services and providing fun attractions like snow cone makers, popcorn machines, games, and we’re looking into arranging for inflatables for the kids.”
Breakfast will be provided by Bagel Stop, and Magen Boys Entertainment has also offered its services and will act as the MCs for the event.
“We’re getting a lot of support from all over the place,” Benmoise said.
“My goal is to try to give back, and this is the first thing I’m trying to do. I hope to make it something that people will love to come out to, while supporting a really great cause.”