"It's awkward," he said. "I had a hard time with it at first."
But when two of his close friends, both of whom had cancer, learned their conditions had worsened, Benhamou quickly put his own discomfort aside and began an all-out fundraising campaign.
He and Team Take a Bite Out of Cancer sent letters to everyone they knew, telling of their involvement with the Relay for Life. Benhamou was surprised at the positive reaction he received. In 2005, Team Take a Bite Out of Cancer raised just over $5,000.
"Cancer affects everyone," Benhamou said. "If you don't have it, it's likely someone in your family does or that someone you know has it. Everyone I've talked to has some type of cancer connection. I think that makes it easier for people to give to the American Cancer Society. They know their money is going to an excellent cause."
But Benhamou took the fundraising effort one step further, challenging patients to "put your money where your mouth is." For each teeth-bleaching procedure he does, for a fee of $250, Benhamou donates $150 to ACS in the name of the patient. At the Relay event, Benhamou also sold framed photographs that he had taken in his spare time, the proceeds of which went directly to ACS.
Last year, Team Take a Bite Out of Cancer's fundraising efforts garnered $9,600, but Benhamou still wants to raise more this year for the Third Annual far East County Relay event, scheduled for June 23-24 at Liberty High School in Brentwood.
He said it's a great feeling to help such a worthy cause, but the event itself and all of the planning that went into it is "such a party" that he keeps coming back each year.
"That first year I didn't know what to expect. I thought I would be there during the day and I'd go home at night," he said. "It was such a blast I didn't want to go home. I ended up staying there for 30 hours."
This year's far East County Relay for Life event is on track to blitz last year's fundraising total of more than $200,000. With 63 teams already registered, equal to the number of total teams at last year's event, event organizers are looking to reach their goal of 100 teams, 300 cancer survivors in attendance and at least $300,000 in donations.
Those interested in forming a team, or those simply looking for more fundraising ideas, are encouraged to attend the team captain meeting on March 27. The event begins at 7 p.m. at Nines restaurant in Brentwood.
For more information about the far East County Relay for Life event, visit www.acsevents.org/relay/ca/brentwood.