MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Benedict Eberhagen is an active teen, solid student, and dedicated volunteer. Some of his interests include running, sailing, and fencing.

“What I really like about it, I’m not the fastest person and it doesn’t rely as much on physical strength as it does on strategy and how you get the point,” he explains.

What should have been a typical senior year of high school was turned upside down last fall.

It started with back pain that wouldn’t go away. Eventually, tests would reveal that it was cancer.

“After the MRI, we got called in with the bad news that I had a tumor inside my spine,” he says. “It was the last thing I expected it to be. It was more of a shock.”

Benedict underwent surgery to remove a 7-inch tumor from his spine. Within weeks, he would go back to school, determined to do his work.

But then there were complications, requiring another surgery, followed by therapy, and proton radiation. Each time putting him in a wheelchair and facing the task of re-learning to walk. This is the third time.

“After the first surgery I had to do it, after the second, then after the radiation, so this is hopefully my last time to recover from not being able to walk.”

All this time, Benedict stayed close with his buddy at Friendship Circle, where teen volunteers are partnered with special needs kids, many of whom have autism, like his friend Diego.

“I’ve been part of Friendship Circle for three years now.  I [volunteered] every week, it’s been a great experience, meeting Diego making a new friend.”

Providing companionship, participating in fun gatherings, and helping raise funds for the organization is important to him. The annual Walking 4 Friendship event is a highlight. So, this year, he’d make it happen, despite the obstacle.

“I honestly felt like I had to give back and decided to also participate in the walkathon. I mean Diego also participated, so it was a must.”

He actually raised the most money for the organization, securing $1600.

Determined and on the mend, this now freshman in the engineering program at the University of Central Florida has already gained some valuable life knowledge.

“Every single challenge, you are able to overcome it. And that’s what Friendship Circle proves, that it doesn’t matter what kind of situation you are in you are able to overcome it.”

Click here to learn about about Friendship Circle Miami.

Marybel Rodriguez

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