Michael Benson, the well-dressed and well-loved Security Director at Kaiser Permanente’s Santa Clara and San Jose Medical Centers, is a former Marine battling despair, but on a campaign to help others. For “Mike,” as he is known at the two medical centers, there is no contradiction.
Benson’s adored teenage daughter Kaitlyn died recently in a horrific traffic accident. Yet Benson is now leading the Santa Clara Medical Center’s “March for Babies” drive, which takes place on April 26th. Benson is the Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Champion for the event.
“As my family and I struggle with our loss, I realize that the only way for us to march forward is to dedicate our lives to helping others,” says an emotional Benson.
The traffic wreck in January devastated Benson and his family.
“Mike has spent his entire career helping make us safe at our medical centers,” says Chris Boyd, Senior Vice President at Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara. “For this loss to hit him, you just can’t understand it.”
Boyd and other leaders at the medical centers helped make sure that Benson and his wife, also a KP Santa Clara employee, got as much support as they needed in their time of grief. There was a huge outpouring of condolences from the more than 6,000 physicians, nurses, staff and volunteers.
“Loving memory” pins were produced and worn around the hospital, and some anonymous volunteers created a soothing, memorial fountain garden in Benson’s San Jose backyard.
“I wanted…some way…to thank everyone (at Kaiser Permanente) for the unwavering support, generosity, and graciousness that was, and continues to be shown to us since the accident,” says Benson.
So this year, Benson will lead Kaiser Permanente’s participation in the March of Dimes “March for Babies” event in Silicon Valley. The March takes place April 26th, and the Kaiser Permanente marchers will be raising cash to support programs that prevent premature births and start babies on healthier lives. Benson’s recruiting marching team captains and encouraging donations.
On an ironic note, Benson and his sister Maignon were both born prematurely.
“Kaitlyn was not born prematurely, but she was taken from us too soon,” says Benson, “Now I want to help kids and anyone else I can, succeed and thrive.”
Benson will also field his own team of marchers for the event, which kicks off in San Jose. He’s naming his team “Kaitlyn’s Crusaders,” in honor of his daughter, who was proud of Mike’s involvement in the March of Dimes, which oversees the annual “March for Babies.”
“Kaiser Permanente has raised thousands of dollars to help March of Dimes programs that prevent premature births,” says Boyd, “And Mike’s always been involved. But this time, he’s really stepping up to the plate despite his incredible grief.”
Benson says no family should ever have to suffer the devastation of losing a child, but he sees his work of organizing the “March for Babies” as a small step of personal healing and at the same time, hope for others.
Want to volunteer? Visit www.marchforbabies.org.