"Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve." MLK
There is an old saying, "Only the good die young." The words in any other order would be simple and not very profound. But for many in the community of Hillcrest, these words are heart breaking and apply to one of kindest people you would ever hope to meet.
Every town has that one special bartender or server, you know the one; the person who cheers you up when you have that awful day or the person you want to share the news of good fortune or a job promotion; the one person who you know will have a smile on their face and cares about the people he meets at work or he encounters walking down the street; the guy who spends the last cash in his pocket to buy a sandwich for a homeless person or pay for a cab ride for a total stranger to make sure they get home safe.
For Hillcrest, that guy was Rob Benzon. He was the guy who everybody knew and you could not help but like. But, he broke their hearts when on June 5, 1999, on a vacation, he got caught in a rip tide in Mexico and drowned. When everybody's best friend dies unexpectedly it's disorienting because that guy was the guy who was always there, the guy who would give the shirt off his back.
How does a community mourn the loss of purity? That is the moment when you feel your grief so profoundly you have to do something. That is the moment the foundation was born.
Grief is an odd emotion. it is a part of love. It is a symptom of loss, an empty feeling that yearns to be filled as quickly as possible. So, the community created a foundation that was true to Benzon -- the guy who gave the shirt off his back.
With this is mind, friends decided the best way to honor Rob was every gay pride to hold a fundraiser and with the money, "Provide unexpected help and hope to individuals in the San Diego community who are suffering from a personal catastrophic event not of their making who are in need of emergency support for actual expenses. "
When the community learned about the fundraiser the most amazing thing happened. Individuals and small business donated and made the dream a very sharp reality. Not every foundation or not for profit can make a claim like this, but they can, and they do it each and every year. So far they have donated $199,000 to the local community.
In an interview with Dan Ferbal, President and Founding Board Member of the Rob Benzon Foundation, Dan explained, "We wanted something good to come from the tragedy of losing our dear friend, Rob. We also wanted Rob's name to live on. Initially, we thought whatever money we raised would go towards an annual scholarship for LGBTQ youth. What ended up happening was remarkable, thanks to a very generous community of supporters. Within two years of Rob's passing, we became a 501(c)3 non-profit charitable organization and over the past 17 years, the Rob Benzon Foundation has granted over $190,000 back to those in need in our community."
I wanted to share the story of the Rob Benzon Foundation with you. It's important for people to know that a small group of people can make a big difference when they come together for the greater good.
"We can do no great things; only small things with great love." Mother Teresa
Writers Note: For more information on the Rob Benzon Foundation go to robbenzon.org, In memory of my friend Rob and for the dedication of Dan, Steve, Andy , John. Alan, Michael , Richelle and all of the volunteers who work so hard each and every year.