Help Simon's Dad Finish His Degree

Simon's dad, Derek, is a disabled veteran and a senior Mechatronics Engineering Student at Purdue University Northwest. Derek served as a cook in the Army Reserves (just like his grandpa and hero/mentor) and was called up to active duty after the attacks on September 11.

While waiting with his unit at Ft Knox to be deployed to Iraq, Derek was stabbed in the back of the calf by another soldier. It was an accident (the soldier was fooling around with his bayonet while Derek was folding laundry), but he lost two arteries, a main vein, and all feeling from the knee down in his left leg.

He almost died in the helicopter on the ride to the hospital. He then suffered an aneurism after the first major surgery and almost died again. When he woke up, he was told he would likely never walk again. He spent (way too) many months in the VA Hospital in Kentucky and endured many surgeries and a LONG recovery in “med hold” before being medically (honorably) discharged in 2003. He defied his doctors by not only learning to walk, but jogging down the hallway on his discharge day

Shortly after returning to “civilian life”, Derek’s injuries began to get worse. He’s had to walk with a cane ever since the accident, which caused issues with his back, spine, and hips. He then started walking with two canes, which caused shoulder issues and neck pain as well. He has been in chronic pain for over a decade, with the VA tossing him ibuprofen and telling him that if his leg gets too painful, they’ll “cut it off for free”. As you can imagine, these issues have made completing an engineering degree quite difficult.

Derek has made tremendous strides to better himself and to get his physical and mental health under control (on his own). Through hard work and grit, he has survived a seemingly-never ending barrage of bad luck.

Due to a series of unfortunate events (and several surgeries related to his military injuries), Derek has run out of Vocational Rehabilitation benefits with only THREE classes left! Like many US families, we live paycheck to paycheck (I currently work 3 jobs to support my husband and son). Despite this, we were fully prepared to pay this semester's tuition out of pocket.

Then, just yesterday, we were told that the money we were promised was not coming in time. We now have just 6 days to pay the $2000+ balance, or my husband will have to wait until next January to finish his degree. He has waited over a decade already, and I am worried that waiting another year may finally defeat him. He is SO close, and it would be devastating to see him give up now- after everything we have been through and sacrificed.

Through generous help from family, we will be able to cover a small part of the tuition costs, but we are still $1700 short. If you know me, you know that I am a proud and stubborn person, and that I would not ask for help if it were not absolutely necessary. Please...if I've ever helped you in any way, I am asking for you to return the favor. Every small donation will push us closer to our goal. If you can't donate, please consider sharing this link on your FB/Instagram/Twitter page.  

Please help us show our son that true strength means never giving up- even if you have to crawl to the finish line (or walk with two canes across the graduation stage)!

Love and light,
Kim, Derek and Simon Benakovich

PS: all additional donations past the goal will be placed in a college fund for Simon Benakovich

Donations ()

  • Asha Tiffin 
    • $10 
    • 28 mos
  • Jackie Belloso 
    • $25 
    • 28 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $250 (Offline)
    • 28 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $125 (Offline)
    • 28 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $250 (Offline)
    • 28 mos
See all


Kimberley Roberts Benakovich 
Hammond, IN
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