Just days after Benny Martinez shaved his head last year to raise money for cancer research at a school fundraiser in Park Ridge, Ill., he wound up in the emergency room while his family was vacationing at Disney World, complaining of an awful headache and nausea. A CT scan revealed a tumor the size of a walnut in the back of his brain, but Benny, who is 12 and describes himself as living on the "giving" side, says he was more worried about ruining his family's vacation. A seven-hour surgery and three days later, the family learned the tumor was malignant—a medulloblastoma, the most common type of childhood brain cancer, reports People. Worse still, it had metastasized, meaning it had spread to other parts of his body.
"I got pretty scared," he admits, per Liftable. But he found strength in focusing on others. "He's the kind of kid who's always worried about others and how things are affecting them," says his mom, who is an economist. She and her husband, a real estate broker, say they weren't surprised when Benny decided to donate the proceeds of fundraisers held in his honor to St. Baldrick's to fund medical research for childhood cancers. He is still undergoing chemo and being tutored at home as he works to regain his mobility and return to 7th grade, not to mention get back to his favorite hobbies of baking pies and playing video games with his older brother. "Losing your hair to help find a cure is worth it," he says. "I really like giving back." (Cancer now follows only accidents, suicide, and murder in causes of kids' deaths.)