July 11th, 1969 to October 10th, 1984
A Troubled Life
A new drug treatment center is dedicated to saving youngsters from the fate of its namesake
March 19, 1991
Six months ago, the Bobby Benson Center, a residential drug treatment center for adolescents opened on 13 acres in Kahuku on Oahu's North Shore. The center is named for 15-year-old Bobby Benson, who died in 1984 after a short life troubled by drug abuse and brushes with crime.
Bobby's father, Honolulu Police Maj. David Benson, spent four years working to make the center a reality so that others would get the help that his son did not. This is the story of one family's pain.
Bobby Benson's story begins long before he tried his first illegal drug. It begins in preschool. He was restless, aggressive and unable to learn. The preschool bounced him.
It was the first failure and set a pattern for the rest of his life, says his mother, Brenda, a school nurse who herself often works with problem youngsters. (For personal reasons, Brenda, who is divorced from Bobby's father, asks that her new surname not be used, and the school where she works not be identified.)
Testing in first or second grade showed that Bobby had a learning disability, was hyperactive, and had an attention deficit disorder. But even after that diagnosis, Bobby's school experiences were rarely successful.
"These children need to be in small groups," said his mother. "When he went to private school (in first and second grade) they nurtured his self-esteem and he got onto Ritalin (a drug for hyperactivity) and I was real hopeful. But he couldn't keep up with the work."
The Bensons moved him back to public school where he ended up in special education classrooms grouped with emotionally handicapped and retarded children, said his mother.
About the same time—Bobby was eight or nine—his parents filed for divorce.
"He was a sensitive child," said his mother. "The combination of the two was too much."
"He got beat up every day (at school). He had low self-esteem. It was like nothing was working in his life. When you're going through a divorce, you don't always meet the emotional needs of your children."