UNION, NJ — Just about everyone in Union knew Mark BenHayon. Outgoing and affable, Mark didn’t let the challenges he faced on a daily basis get in the way of his great sense of humor and fun-loving disposition.
Lifelong residents of Union, the BenHayon family wanted to keep Mark’s memory alive, and so just one month after Mark’s passing, they established the Mark BenHayon Foundation for Epilepsy.
According to his mother, Paula BenHayon, Mark suffered from learning and mental disabilities — the result of contracting spinal meningitis as a young child — later developing epilepsy as an adult. It was an epileptic seizure that took Mark’s life just two months ago, at the age of 39.
BenHayon said that although her son — the youngest of four boys — lived a full and happy life, he struggled to cope with some of the issues he faced. “He was a jokester, he’d always tell jokes,” said BenHayon of her son. “But he got frustrated that he couldn’t figure things out. He was on the cusp. He knew he wasn’t quite like everyone else. After he passed away, we decided that we needed to do something for him that he never could have done for himself.”
According to Mark’s older brother, Michael BenHayon, the foundation was established for those who face the same challenges. “The foundation we set up is to help similar individuals and families that suffer from the same mental and physical limitations that Mark did,” BenHayon said.
BenHayon said that his brother, who graduated from Union High School, was well-known throughout town. “Mark was a loving, caring individual who was very well known in Union for over 25 years,” said Michael BenHayon. “He was a staple in Union. He was very special to our family and the many friends he made over the course of the years,” he said.
Michael BenHayon said that the mission of the foundation is to raise awareness for individuals who suffer from epilepsy and mental disorders by offering assistance with education and job training on an ongoing basis, locating resources, and offering financial relief and assistance to offset some of the costs of occupying and entertaining their loved ones. “We looked for resources and they just weren’t there,” said BenHayon.
“We couldn’t get any kind of resources or help with funding. We had to do it all on our own.”
According to Michael BenHayon, providing things like entertainment, travel and relaxation is vital to the wellbeing of both individuals and families touched by epilepsy, yet those things are often overlooked. “We tried as hard as we could to provide a good life for him,” said BenHayon of his brother. “Our mission is to raise funds for families who can’t provide for their family member. We’re trying to help on a more personal level. We want to raise awareness. We’d love to help other people in this situation,” he said.
Paula BenHayon said that the family continues to maintain Mark’s apartment in Florida, with plans to offer it as a place to stay for families, who they hope to send on vacation for some much-needed rest and relaxation. “We’re trying to help families who can’t afford to travel or go places,” said BenHayon.
Michael BenHayon said that although the foundation is still in its planning stages, it is moving forward with its mission with the help of grant writers and other professionals. “We’re hoping to build some kind of legacy in his name,” said BenHayon of his brother. “It’s important to my mother and it’s important to us.”
For more information on the Mark BenHayon Foundation for Epilepsy visit www.gofundme.com/markbenhayon.