Sy’s Fund 1st Annual Pool Tournament;

Sy’s Fund 1st Annual Pool Tournament;

Sy’s Fund 1st Annual Pool Tournament Everyone had a great time!...

Press Article October 20, 2010

DOCUMENTING A SHORT LIFE A mother carries on a college student’s project on living with cancer By Dave Eisenstadter Sentinel Staff Published: Wednesday, October 20, 2010 12:08 PM EDT Silas R. “Sy” Bennett was covering elections for KSC-TV News when he was diagnosed with late-stage cancer in October of 2007. For the next seven months, camera in hand, he covered a different story: his own struggle against disease. Now, after his death in 2008, his footage and photography are being used to promote a fund to help young people find ways to cope with terminal and serious disease. It’s called Sy’s Fund. Sy’s Fund is for people ages 18 through 39 with cancer, and funds personal pursuits and passions they have unrelated to their disease. “You can’t get away from cancer, but this is to help them make their days easier,” said Lorraine E. Kerz, Sy’s mother, who put the fund together. In September, she finished a short documentary from her son’s footage, called “The Man Behind Sy’s Fund.” (The video is posted online at www.vimeo.com/15966121.) “I’ve got a growth on my C4 vertebrae, and I don’t even know how to deal with it,” Bennett says in the opening of the video. “I felt like I was getting old, but didn’t feel I was old enough for cancer.” As Bennett progressed through his cancer treatment, the journalism major at Keene State kept his camera handy, at first creating footage of himself reporting on his progress with the disease, and eventually getting a still camera and taking photos of the world around him. Rather than lying in bed after surgeries or chemo treatments, Bennett would ask his family to take him out in a wheelchair with his camera. He took photos and spent a lot of time editing them, according to Kerz. “He didn’t want to talk about cancer; he didn’t want to be ‘Silas with cancer,’ ” she said. “Patients want to be known as who they are and yet they are losing their hair and going through treatments and not looking like the same person they were.” Kerz had trouble looking through the photos and footage, but realized she could use it to help others in her son’s situation. “I came to realize that if Silas had the courage to do this as a journalist, I felt that I could put this documentary together to show the world how this young man handled himself and how he handled life,” Kerz said. For people in her son’s age group, who are not usually required to contemplate their own mortality, Kerz said keeping up with their passions as Bennett did is important therapy. “This happens, and it happens to young people,” Kerz said. “It’s one of the most difficult things you can imagine.” Administering the fund is therapeutic for Kerz, as well. “Sy’s Fund for me is a purpose, a way for me to stay grounded on the Earth while I’m here,” Kerz said. “That is something that helps me get through the days. I miss my son terribly.” In addition to administering the fund, Kerz also runs a grief support group for parents who have lost adult or teen children to accidents, disease and suicide. “A mom can be in her 70s and the grief is still as intense, regardless of what the cause of death was,” Kerz said. Kimberley R. Diemond is president of another organization, Joy’s Network, which offers support to cancer patients and their families in the Monadnock Region. She founded the organization in January after her mother, Joy, died of cancer. She also runs a cancer discussion group Wednesday evenings at Cheshire Medical Center/Dartmouth-Hitchcock Keene. Diemond agreed keeping passions alive for patients with cancer is important. “Having a positive attitude and being realistic yet hopeful is the most important thing for patients,” Diemond said. “So is treating each day like a special gift and living the most you can in that minute.” Having a disease like cancer can make a patient feel helpless, Diemond said, so having an empowering activity is important. “If there is something you can still do it just helps to keep your strength going, and help feel like you’re still part of the bigger picture, part of your community,” Diemond said. Information on Sy’s Fund, a 501(c)3 organization, is available at www.sysfund.org. Kerz said she is looking not only for donations, but for people the fund can help. Kerz hopes that keeping passion alive for those with cancer can help them fight the disease with as much fervor as her son. “He was a warrior. That’s the word I would use to describe my son.” Dave...

Press Article October 13, 2010

Bennett’s bravery documented Mother hopes to inspire others and help raise awareness with DVD release By Mike Steiner Sports Editor Published: Wednesday, October 13, 2010 Updated: Wednesday, October 13, 2010 21:10 Keene Equinox 2010 On Tuesday, Oct. 5, Silas Bennett should have turned 32.  Instead he was and always will be 29 years old.  Two years ago Bennett was a year short of graduating Keene State College with a degree in journalism when he discovered he had late stage cancer. While no amount of treatment would have been able to save Bennett, he took his last few months for everything they were worth, taking photos and documenting some of his time in the hospital on video.  Until recently, the most prominent reminder of Bennett on campus, aside from memories, was a bench made in his memory, which sits in the Media Arts Center. Every detail of the bench, specially made by designer Gary Spykman, holds a symbolic meaning. The woods used to build the bench, ash wood to represent his love for the Red Sox (baseball bats are made of ash wood), and cherry wood to symbolize his passion for food, were no exception. The interlocking pieces of wood were specially built in a way to symbolize the interconnectedness of Bennett’s life with those of others. Recently, Bennett’s gifts to others have grown even larger. Bennett’s mother, Lorraine Kerz, has been putting the finishing touches on a charity website made under Bennett’s name. The goal of the site, sysfund.org, is to raise money for cancer patients ages 18-39. Kerz had specific reasons for the unique age group that the fund focuses on. “Think of a thing you like to do like hanging out with friends or working on your college degree and when cancer comes into the picture a lot of those things change,” Kerz said. “We’re hoping to fund people to give them something to help them open their world up.” Another thing that makes Sy’s Fund a unique organization is it isn’t only for terminally ill cancer patients. “It can be a young adult who’s going through radiation treatments,” Kerz explained. “They can be staged at two or three, not necessarily a stage four diagnosis. We feel that because of cancer, knowing how difficult cancer is, whether you have a better prognosis or not it’s still something that’s very difficult to go through.” The stages of cancer Kerz is referring to are the level of severity the cancer has reached in the patient. According to cancerhelp.org, stage one usually means a cancer is relatively small and contained within the organ it started in. Stage two usually means the cancer has not started to spread into surrounding tissue, but the tumour is larger than in stage 1. Sometimes stage 2 means that cancer cells have spread into lymph nodes close to the tumour. Stage three usually means the cancer is larger. It may have started to spread into surrounding tissues and there are cancer cells in the lymph nodes in the area. Stage four means the cancer has spread from where it started to another body organ – this is also called secondary or metastatic cancer. Also involved in bringing awareness to Sy’s Fund is local coffee store Unta Coffee. With the help of Sy’s Fund they will be creating a special blend to sell. While nothing is set in stone yet, the company hopes to have the blend available by Dec. 1 in time for the holidays. Excluding the cost to make and sell the blend, all the money will go to Sy’s Fund. The largest development in the ongoing effort to bring attention to the fund is the recent release of the documentary “The Man Behind Sy’s Fund.” The DVD includes photos and video taken by Bennett while he was in the hospital. Bennett used photography as a way of staying positive and focused on the things outside of his treatments. With the release of the documentary, there are obvious emotions that come rushing back to all who were involved with Bennett and his treatments. “Of course I will never forget why the fund was started, but I felt that once I started looking at the footage, I realized what courage it took,” Kerz said. “I felt that if he had the courage to do something like that and to let people know what it feels like to be 29 and have something like this happen, I would find the courage to finish that piece. Other people, his sister and best friend, found the courage to speak. My hope is, particularly the shorter version, will be on the website so people can see...