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Benny Martinez is a kind and giving boy, he demonstrated so earlier this year when he decided he wanted to shave his head to raise money for cancer research at his school fundraiser in Park Ridge, Illinois. Less than two weeks before he could complete his good deed, 12-year-old Benny Martinez ended up in the emergency room with a terrible headache and nausea while vacationing with his family in Orlando, Florida.


After a CT scan of his brain, doctors gave his parents the news: Benny had a walnut-sized tumor in the back of his brain that required immediate surgery.

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After a seven-hour surgery that left him unable to walk, talk and swallow due to a rare side effect called posterior fossa syndrome, it was confirmed three days later, sadly on his dad’s birthday, that the tumor was indeed cancerous. Benny was diagnosed with something called medulloblastoma, the most common type of childhood brain cancer.

It’s been a long tough battle for Benny ever since his diagnosis in March. But his neighborhood is coming together to help him out.

Tom and Tina Grusecki also live in Park Ridge, and every year they put on a spectacle of a show for their neighbors during the Holiday season. This year as they prepare for their annual light show, which mixes synchronized video and thousands of lights to music, creating a dazzling holiday display on their house and front lawn.

“This year we put all our heart into this and we want everybody to donate to the St. Baldrick Foundation in honor of Benny Martinez,” homeowner Tina Grusecki told ABC7 Chicago.

It will generally run from 5 to about 8:30 p.m. on weeknights and from 5 to 9:30 p.m. on weekends, she said.

For the 2017 display, the show will continue tradition and feature a salute to the military and Christmas songs by Michael Buble and Darlene Love. New this year is the theme from “Beauty and the Beast” and a continuation of last year’s tribute to Prince.

“We kept a Prince song in because people were upset we didn’t have ‘Purple Rain’ [in the Prince medley] last year,” Tina Grusecki said.

Benicio Martinez is a classmate of Tina’s son James and an ambassador for St. Baldrick’s, which supports childhood cancer research. Martinez is currently in the hospital, but was thrilled to hear about his friends’ plans to help his favorite charity.

The fundraiser is the latest outpouring in Benny’s name. Earlier this year, the Park Ridge Newcomers named Benny their 2017 Labor of Love recipient, with proceeds from a fundraising benefit going to St. Baldrick’s and to the Martinez family to help with medical expenses.

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Residents around Park Ridge also showed their support with lawn signs that read “Benicio Strong.”

Cash and check donations will be accepted in a designated box outside the Grusecki home, the couple said. Last year’s light show raised more than $36,000 for Salute Inc., a company that offers short-term financial assistance to military veterans.

Mariana writes for Rare Chicago.
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