“An ex-girlfriend once told me I was too nice, so nice that I’d probably just give anything to a stranger, including a kidney.”
Ben Benson, a soft-spoken 24 year-old Dutch Bros Coffee employee from Chico, Calif. clearly remembers the conversation when things got real.
“She meant it to be spiteful, but instead, it reinforced something that I already knew. I would donate something, even a kidney, to someone that needed it.”
As he recalls the start of his journey, Benson says he always knew if a family member needed anything at all, he’d give it to them.
“That was never a question for me, but my whole life I felt like I wanted to give more, and then it just clicked with that conversation and made sense. I knew it was time to explore the process.”
What he didn’t know was a stranger would ultimately be the one he would end up helping.
And so he began researching donor sites, something that proved as simple as a Google search on how to make a kidney donation. His mission, further inspired by a quote he read from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to “see equal value in all lives” became the driving force to do something more, to find value by helping others.
Benson filled out questionnaires and started multiple medical screens. About six months later he heard back that he was a strong match for someone. While he had no idea who he matched with, Benson did know someone was waiting on a life-saving procedure, and he was the key to giving someone a chance.
“It all happened really fast. To me, it didn’t matter who it was, I just knew I wanted to do this.”
Benson then made the trip from California to the University of Utah to donate his kidney.
“I didn’t know until the week after surgery who got it. The surgeon came in and let me know my kidney was a match for a nine-year-old boy.”
The following day, Benson met Kaden, a magnetic young boy from Utah who, along with his devoted family, had waited a long time for a kidney donor. He was instantly struck by Kaden’s energy for life and optimistic attitude.
“When I was nine, I just wasn’t that cool and charismatic. He’s a super-amazing kid who’s been dealing with this his whole life, and he deserved a donor.”
Benson says the experience has been life changing for him and, following the surgery, his hope for a brighter future continues to reside with Kaden.
“I hope he gets to live a fulfilled life, whatever that means for him. It’s his hopes and dreams that matter to me, and it’s all for him to decide. I’m happy that he has the gift of time to live the life that he was meant to.”
When asked how he’s doing, Benson reports feeling “really good” and nearly back to 100 percent since the surgery. In his typical unassuming style, he refocuses the conversation back to Kaden.
“It’s awesome to know he’s doing so well, and I look forward to keeping in touch with him, and his family. I’m really hopeful for him.”
As for Benson’s future, he’s looking forward to growing professionally with Dutch Bros, and is excited to begin work as a trainer for the coffee company.
“Overall I just want to continue on a path of personal growth and peace. I hope that I can encourage people to be their best on my journey with the company.”
Benson is just now starting to realize how his selflessness has impacted others. A teammate approached him at Coacha, a Dutch Bros company event designed to celebrate employees, and confided he lost his own father who was waiting on a kidney donor. That employee said Benson’s story was a source of healing and inspiration.
“I never thought about how it would change my own life, and now those around me. I just wanted to find a way to help someone.”
As Benson reflects on the “realness” of the last year and all the life-changing moments, he’s asked, “So what about the ex-girlfriend, does she know she helped trigger something so amazing?” And he gives a slight smile.
“Uh, yeah. We talked a week or so before the surgery, and she knew exactly what I was talking about. I gave her credit for planting a seed. She said she was mind-blown, but not surprised. And then we just laughed.”