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Cancer Crusader

Fifth-grader Ben Duskin is reaching out to kids who have cancer. In 2004 he invented and released a video game for kids about fighting this disease.

Ben, who is from California, is no stranger to the disease. When he was five years old, he learned that he had a type of cancer called leukemia. In leukemia, the body produces a lot of diseased white blood cells that cannot perform their usual function of fighting infection. These cells crowd out normal white cells, making it hard for the body to defend against infection.

Ben's Game

Why did Ben invent the video game? When he was in the hospital, he relied on video games to take his mind off being sick. That inspired him to help other kids who have cancer.

The result is “Ben's Game”—named after its creator. The game stars a character who moves around the screen on a skateboard, fighting cancer cells inside the body. (There are several characters to choose from, or you can create your own.) The object of the game is to use your skateboard and medicines to blast cancer cells. You must also collect seven shields to protect against the common side effects of chemotherapy, which can include nausea, hair loss, and fevers.

Make-A-Wish Helps Out

Thanks to the Greater Bay Area (San Francisco, California) Make-A-Wish Foundation, Ben's idea became a reality. The foundation helped Ben work with software designer Eric Johnston to create his video game. Ben and Eric worked together for several months to create the game, which can be downloaded for free from the Make-A-Wish Foundation Web site.

Other Kinds of Ben Fun

When Ben isn't inventing video games, he loves to play basketball and to spend time with his dog, Cheddar. Ben is feeling pretty good these days: his cancer is now in remission, which means that virtually no cancer can be detected in his body. It's encouraging for children and parents to know that childhood leukemia is one of the cancers that medicine has had the most success in curing.