The death of a beloved pet is always hard. But two young brothers turned their heartache into hope for other families.
When a Fort Lauderdale family lost their beloved dog to cancer, two young brothers decided that the disease had become an all-too-frequent visitor in their world.
Josh and Bryce Benbasat, then 15 and 12, had just watched their grandmother successfully battle breast and lung cancer. But when Sashi, their Lhasa Apso, succumbed to the disease, they decided that the best way to cope with their grief was to channel their emotions into something positive.
Or something “pawsitive.”
In 2014, PAWSitively Curing Cancer was born. The nonprofit, dedicated to providing funding for oncology research at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, has since raised several thousand dollars to explore the causes of and cures for pet cancer.
“The most intriguing part about our foundation is that the cure for pet cancer will likely lead to the cure for human cancer,” says Josh Benbasat, now 18 and a freshman at UF.
We need to understand the diseases in our companion animals to understand them in people. There is an interconnectivity among living things.
— Dr. Rowan Milner, College of Veterinary Medicine —
Dr. Rowan Milner, the Hill’s Professor of Oncology and a chair at the College of Veterinary Medicine, says there have been several examples of treatments in dogs successfully transferring to humans.
“We need to understand the diseases in our companion animals to understand them in people,” Milner says. “There is an interconnectivity among living things.”
When the brothers initially approached their father, Steve Benbasat, with the idea to raise money for pet cancer, they looked for an existing nonprofit focused on the cause. When they couldn’t locate one, Steve and the boys started their own. To raise money, they turned to Steve’s company, Trimline, which manufactures soft recovery collars — a more comfortable alternative to the plastic “cones of shame” used by veterinarians to keep pets from accessing wounds. Josh and Bryce suggested offering collars with pink trim, with proceeds going to their nonprofit. Trimline has since moved to flat yearly donations.
Steve Benbasat said he involved his sons in the entire process of setting up the nonprofit.
“Knowing how to have the initiative to start something and the knowledge to run it will be important no matter what they do,” says Benbasat, who earned a bachelor’s in finance from UF in 1991. His wife and the boys’ mother, Dena Benbasat, is a 1992 UF alum, with a bachelor’s in education. Bryce, now 15, is a freshman in high school with his sights on UF.
Josh and Bryce were honored with the Young Philanthropists Award at this year’s Academy of Golden Gators event, which acknowledges selflessness and service to the University of Florida.
“Think of how much better the world would be,” said Dr. Milner, who presented the award, “if everyone started as young as these two on the path toward giving back.”