With a homemade lip balm and a passion to help a friend, the Bennett brothers have raised thousands of dollars for pediatric cancer research.
Sometimes the smallest things can make a big impact. Just ask Harry and Heath Bennett about their little tubs of homemade lip balm. In the kitchen of their Malden home, the brothers make the balm; each batch potentially bringing us just a bit closer to a cure for cancer.
Since the boys started Bennett Brothers Balm in the summer of 2016 – when they were just 11 and 7 – they’ve raised over $27,000 to support pediatric cancer research.
The brothers were inspired to start their own not-for-profit business after their friend, Timmy, was diagnosed with Stage 1 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Timmy was just 11 years old and about the finish the fifth grade, and the Bennetts were faced with the heavy truth that someone so young, healthy and active could be so sick.
“Heath and I were shocked and sad when we found out and we knew right away that we wanted to do something to help him feel better. We learned that cancer patients’ lips and skin can get dry and chapped from chemo treatments, so we thought that making a lip balm would be a good idea,” said Harry, who’s now 13.
The brothers pored over online recipes, researched ingredients, and experimented in the kitchen. After a number of botched batches, they landed on the winning formula -- a plant-based wax that included scents of strawberry and vanilla (Timmy’s favorite).
“We probably made about 10 or more batches before we came up with a recipe that we were happy with,” said Harry. “We wanted our products to be all natural and gentle enough for cancer patients to use. All of our products are made with them in mind.”
Since then, Harry and Heath have expanded their line to include body butter, eye balm, and a belly balm, Tummy Troubles, for upset stomachs, nausea and anxiety. All of the products are handmade by the boys in their home, with the brothers taking charge of every aspect of the business, from research and production, to labeling, packaging, marketing and selling their products online and at local events.
The brothers also host special fundraisers for friends, and have collaborated with organizations across the country to raise funds and awareness for childhood cancer. Their lip balm is included in chemo care pouches for Breast Cancer patients at three local cancer centers.
Selling the products door-to-door, in an online Etsy shop, and at craft fairs, the boys have raised thousands of dollars, which they’ve donated to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where their friend was treated, and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. For their work, the boys were honored with the 2018 Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes.
The pair has learned a lot through Bennett Brothers Balm: how to run a business and manage money, and interact with customers, and has polished their public speaking skills. Nine-year-old Heath said the lip balm business has helped him overcome shyness. “I think I am more outgoing now… I am happy that sharing our story has helped to raise awareness for our cause.”
“We have made a lot of friends in the cancer community and we feel very proud of the work that we have done, and the awareness that we have raised in our school and community,” said Harry.
The Bennett brothers have no plans for slowing down, hoping to one day see their products in Whole Foods stores and to keep fundraising until a cure is found. But beyond cancer research, the boys have plenty of other passions. Heath is on a local swim team and enjoys cooking and baking, while Harry, who loves to act, does theater with the Greater Boston Stage Company in Stoneham.
They are also role models to other kids, and offer children wanting to give back this advice: “Talk to an adult about your interests and passions, choose a cause that means something to you, start with something simple and easy, and come up with a plan of action together. You are never too young (or old) to make a difference and even something small (like lip balm!) can have a big, lasting impact.”