"Big Ben" Bowen
November 14, 2002|
Huntington, West Virginia
|Died||February 25, 2005
Huntington, West Virginia
|Cause of death||Brain cancer (ATRT)|
|Residence||Huntington, West Virginia|
|Other names||"Big Ben"|
Benjamin David "Ben" Bowen (November 14, 2002 – February 25, 2005), commonly called Big Ben Bowen, was a boy from Huntington, West Virginia, who was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour in 2004. His family has used his story to raise awareness of childhood cancer and to raise almost $4 million for St. Jude Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
Ben Bowen was born to Tom and Jennifer Bowen on November 14, 2002. Ben had a normal infancy until age 16 months, when he was diagnosed with a golf-ball–sized tumor in the middle of his brain. Ben Bowen went to Cincinnati Children's Hospital for emergency brain surgery. The tumor proved to be a very aggressive, rare, and fast-growing atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor (AT/RT). The Bowens transferred to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in March 2004.
Ben's initial treatments included four brain surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. During this treatment period, Ben Bowen picked up the nickname "Big Ben" because of his "big" demeanor, bravery and smile. The tumor reoccurred by November 2004, and no known medicines or treatments were left to help him.
With assistance from Federal Express, and the family of a victim in the September 11 attacks (whom Tom assisted in the recovery of), the Bowen family took Ben Bowen on a special two-week trip to Disney World, where they celebrated his second birthday.
The Bowens wanted to create a legacy in their son's name and thank Saint Jude Hospital for caring for Bowen and providing family housing. The Bowens started a fund raising program selling "Big Ben" awareness bracelets for Valentine's Day. The wristband project ended up raising over US$120,000
The 2007 fundraising drive was a raffle for a house (called The House that Ben Built) located in Putnam County, West Virginia, which brought in $808,000. Governor Joe Manchin changed WV state law to make this raffle possible. As a result, St. Jude launched a WV field office that organizes all state fundraising for the hospital. In 2008 the Bowen family organized a second St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway raffle in Hurricane, WVA and raised over $1,000,000. The third annual WV St. Jude Dream Home was scheduled to expand to two locations, Milton and Morgantown, WV, in 2009.[needs update]
Ben Bowen's last months were physically painful. Morphine did not manage his pain adequately, his body tripled in size, and he would regurgitate fecal matter. The neuropathic pain became so severe, his parents could not hold him. The Bowen family are Protestant Christians and relied on their belief that God has a plan for each life and that faith requires believing God's good promises. Ben died on February 25, 2005.
Funeral Services were held on Tuesday, March 1, 2005, at River Cities Community Church in Huntington, West Virginia. The funeral cortege traveled on the highway that now bears Ben's name on the way to the cemetery. Survivors include his parents, an older brother Eli, two brothers and two sisters born after his death. Ben's family moved to the Memphis, Tennessee area, and Tom Bowen first went to work for St. Jude Children's Hospital raising funds to cure pediatric cancer, later working on creating the Childhood Cancer Network as Ben Bowen's legacy.
- Ben Bowen was the St. Jude Children's Hospital Patient of the Month for September 2004.
- Shelby County, Tennessee Sheriff Mark Luttrell declared December 6, 2004, to be Benjamin Bowen Day.
- West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin honored Bowen's life with a special citation on February 13, 2005.
- The State Journal honored Bowen and his family as one of 55 Good Things about West Virginia in May, 2005 This honor was published in a 2005 State Journal special issue. This story was also featured in an associated TV program, which was broadcast on a number of West Virginia Media Holdings stations.
- Huntington, West Virginia started the "Annual Big Ben 5K for Kids". It has been held each June and benefits St. Jude Children's Hospital as well as families with sick children.
- A new four-lane bypass, West Virginia Route 193, near Huntington, West Virginia was named the "Big Ben" Bowen Highway in September, 2006.
Ben Bowen's influence
- Ben Bowen's story has raised almost $4 million for St. Jude Children's Hospital.
- Ben Bowen and his family were featured in the 2004 Autumn issue of Saint Jude's Promise, a magazine published by the hospital. It described how the 9/11 families that that firefighter Tom Bowen helped, in turn helped Ben Bowen.
- St. Jude's Children's Hospital produced one-hour special TV show, Fighting for Life that featured Ben Bowen as one of six patients being treated for childhood cancer at Saint Jude. Alan Alda narrated Bowen's story. This special has been broadcast a number of times since its first airing in 2005 and has raised substantial funds for cancer research at St. Jude Children's Hospital.
- In 2007, WCHS Eyewitness News and Fox 11 produced a seven-part series on Ben Bowen's life and St. Jude Children's Hospital to help raise funds for Saint Jude's via a raffle for the "House That Ben Built." It raised over $800,000.
- Stein, Deanne (February 27, 2005). "'Big Ben" Bowen Dies". WOWK-TV, Channel 13, Charleston & Huntington, WV. Archived from the original on November 17, 2006.
- Stein, Deanne (March 1, 2005). "'Big Ben's' Life Celebrated". WOWK-TV, Channel 13, Charleston & Huntington, WV.
- "Message From Tom". Ben's Story Website. 2004. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved November 12, 2007.[self-published source?]
- "Big Ben Bowen". Saint Jude Promise Magazine & Web Site. September 2004. Retrieved April 21, 2007.
- "See Ben's Guest Book". Ben's Story Website. 2004. Archived from the original on June 29, 2007. Retrieved July 8, 2007.[self-published source?]
- "Charity of the Month: Ben Bowen". Kathie Lee Gifford Charities. 2004. Archived from the original on April 16, 2007. Retrieved April 14, 2007.
- "Ben's Big Trip to Disney World". Ben's Story Website. 2006. Retrieved April 12, 2007.[self-published source?]
- Stein, Deanne (February 15, 2005). "When Love is a Band of Blue". WOWK-TV, Channel 13, Charleston & Huntington, WV. Archived from the original on September 26, 2011.
- Withum, John (February 15, 2005). "Big Ben brings big changes: Words from Withum". Parthanon Online: Student Newspaper of Marshall University. Archived from the original on May 15, 2007.
- "The House That Ben Built: You Can Help". WCHS ABC Eyewitness News, Channel 8, Charleston, Huntington, WV. 2007. Archived from the original (–Scholar search) on September 27, 2007. Retrieved April 10, 2007.[dead link]
- Chambers, Brian (June 17, 2007). "Winner 'can't believe' St. Jude dream house is his". Herald Dispatch. Retrieved June 20, 2007.
- Cline, Carrie (June 23, 2008). "Ben Bowen's Legacy Still Giving". WSAZ Channel 3, Charleston, Huntington, WV. Retrieved August 26, 2008.
- "Ben's Story Updates - 2/19/2007 Post by Tom Bowen". Ben's Story Website. 2007. Archived from the original on April 27, 2007. Retrieved April 14, 2007.
- Tarkett, Jean (March 2, 2005). "Family, friends bid farewell to Ben Bowen: 2-year-old who struggled against cancer honored with balloons". Herald Dispatch.
- "Patient of the Month - September 2004 Ben Bowen". Saint Jude Web Site. September 2004. Retrieved April 10, 2007.
- "Two-Year-Old Cancer Patient Deputized". WREG-TV, News Channel 3, Memphis, TN. December 6, 2004. Retrieved April 10, 2007.
- "Special Citation from West Virginia Governor - Ben in the News". Ben's Story Website. 2005. Archived from the original on April 25, 2007. Retrieved April 12, 2007.
- "For the 20th Year, 55 Good Things to Cheer". State Journal. May 2, 2005. Archived from the original on November 25, 2006. Retrieved April 10, 2007.
- "Big Ben Bowen Highway Named, Sept, 2006 - Ben in the News". Ben's Story Website. September 2006. Archived from the original on April 25, 2007. Retrieved April 12, 2007.
- "Show Buz". CBS News. December 1, 2005. Retrieved April 11, 2007.
- "Saint Jude Dream Home: The House That Ben Built". WCHS ABC Eyewitness News, Channel 8, Charleston, Huntington, WV. March 2007. Retrieved April 14, 2007.
- Rahall, Nick (June 18, 2007). "Rahall Report: West Virginians Unite Behind Big Ben, St. Jude's". Rahall Report (D-WV) represents WV's Third District. Archived from the original (– Scholar search) on May 30, 2007. Retrieved April 14, 2007.[dead link]