Heidi Julia Bender

Heidi Julia Bender (November 16, 1979 - March 31, 1991), the younger daughter of Randi Laine Bender (nee Anderson) and Howard Jeffrey Bender, was born in Shrub Oak, New York but lived most of her life in University Park, Maryland. Heidi led an average American middle-class life until she was stricken with an inoperable tumor in her brain stem when she was eight years old.

The tumor progressively took away Heidi's functionality, beginning with her right arm movements, and she was not able to continue her Fruits and Vegetables comic strip.  She wrote a newspaper story for the Prince George's Journal (publication ceased in 2005) describing her four surgeries, radiation, chemotherapy, and other medical treatments and how she maintained a positive attitude throughout it all.  This story stimulated both media and individual interest in how this little girl could handle such a terrible illness so well. 

Heidi became a local celebrity as she continued to surprise her parents, teachers, and doctors with her positive attitude and ways to get around problems her illness caused. She was awarded an Official Citation for Courage and Fortitude by the Montgomery County government; the Prince George's Journal ran follow-up editorials using Heidi's attitude as an example; the Good Knight Child Empowerment Network made her their first Junior Blue Knight; the Make-A-Wish Foundation published her book Cathy, Please Don't Move [1] and made her their honorary editor for their fall/winter 1990 Wishline; her favorite cartoonists, Matt Groening (The Simpsons) and Jim Davis (Garfield) sent her personalized cartoons of encouragement; First Lady Barbara Bush sent her a personal letter of encouragement; she has two works of art in the International Museum of Children's Art in Oslo; the Ash Mill Farm in Pennsylvania told her that she was such an inspiration to them that a lamb would always be named for her; and WUSA TV did a news special[2] on how Heidi handled her day. The show concluded with her message from her wheelchair, "I want people to know that they can do whatever they want, no matter what their situation is. They can do it - they shouldn't give up."

In 1997 the International Astronomical Union (IAU), upon recommendation by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), named a crater on Venus after Heidi. They said, "Heidi is the only child for whom a crater on Venus has been named. While she doesn't have the quantity of substantial works of other authors and artists, the USGS and the IAU recognized that a child who accomplishes so much in such a short time under such duress, and has had such a positive effect on so many people, is famous indeed."[3]


  1. ^ Lucky Books, Winchester, VA

  2. ^ Washington, DC; November 20, 1990

  3. ^ Letter from the IAU to Howard Jeffrey Bender