Would you leave a successful career to pursue a cause you really believe in? Harold Benjamin, a prominent Beverly Hills attorney did and what he did next may one day save your live or the life of someone close to you.
In 1972, Harold’s wife Harriet, the mother of their two daughters was diagnosed with breast cancer. Rather than get her affairs in order and make her goodbyes, she fought for her life, with a double mastectomy and radiation and chemotherapy treatments. And she learned as much about the disease as she could so that she could be a part of her own medical team.
But she also did something else.
She refused to be isolated. Cancer patients are often traumatized by the diagnosis, fearful for what may lie ahead and they desperately need the support of others.
Harriet got the love and attention she needed from family and friends. But because there was no such thing as a cancer support group, she joined a drug treatment group.
Harriet said, “I could sit in the group and talk about it, (even) laugh about it. I just needed the support of other people.” Their compassion and support helped her to fully recover.
Harold was deeply moved by the difference this support group made for Harriet and wanted other cancer patients to get similar support. This led him to a dramatic decision.
Harriet said, “He was driving to his office one day and all of a sudden he just saw it all (The Wellness Community, a support center for cancer patients and their families, a new concept he had just created in his mind). That night he came home to me and said this is what I want to do.
“I said, ‘Do we have the money, can we afford to do this?’ He said yes we can and that was it. The next day, he went to his partner and said I’m retiring.”
In 1981, he and his family spent $250,000 to hire as program director a top psychotherapist, who was also a cancer survivor and two other staff members and set up the original facility in a cozy little yellow house in Santa Monica. Harold was their first volunteer.
How important was this new cancer support group?
Famed Saturday Night Live comedian Gilda Radner had fatal ovarian cancer. In her book,It’s Always Something; she described the importance of the support The Wellness Community gave her. “I stopped sitting at home saying, ‘Why me?’ or being depressed thinking I was the only one.
“I began to crawl to The Wellness Community like someone in search of an oasis in the desert. My car couldn’t get me there fast enough. I couldn’t walk fast enough from the parking lot."
“I couldn’t get inside fast enough to be nourished by other cancer patients, and to know that I was not alone. I could hire people to be around me, I could pay groups of people to go through this with me, but I could never get what I got there, not ever.”
Today, The Wellness Community has 22 U.S. facilities and additional facilities in Japan, Israel and Scotland and serves 100,000 people a year. It is very successful, yet it hemorrhages money. Why? Because everything it offers is free.
It is a bad business concept but a wonderful practice. They fund raise like other charities.
But the Benjamin family, who has never been paid by The Wellness Community, has profited immensely from it. How? By the difference they’ve seen it make for thousands of cancer patients and their families.
Success Tip of the Week: As Harold Benjamin did, select a charitable cause you believe in. Then donate some time to it. You’ll meet interesting people, polish your organizational and people skills and you’ll feel good about yourself as you help to make the world a little better place.
In the next KazanToday, An Italian immigrant who came to the U.S. broke, spoke no English and had just three years of school. You’ll learn how he made a fortune and how you could too.