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 who Silas was on earth.  I never want to forget Sy’s journey and how he taught us.”

While the entire video is filled with emotion and love, particular quotes in the DVD from Bennett force viewers to try to comprehend the type of ordeal he faced
during the treatments.

“No one thinks that they’re gonna get cancer,” Bennett said to a hand held camera faced towards himself. “It happens but it doesn’t happen to me.”

Everything in the video, down to the dull humming of machines, gives viewers an intimate look into what was essentially Bennett’s home for the months leading up
to his passing.

With the DVD and the development of the website, all that remains to be done is getting donations towards the fund. In addition to Unta’s coffee blend, there have
been other efforts to raise money for the site. Throughout the past year, Sy’s fund has held a benefit golf tournament, raffles, and a dance to raise money and awareness.
Totaled together, the events have raised over $4000 dollars for the foundation according to Kerz. This though, Kerz said, is just the beginning.

“Little by little we’re getting there and hopefully each fundraiser will be more of a success,” Kerz said.

With next year’s events already in their planning phases and the final details being sorted out with the foundation, one can only hope the emotions Bennett displayed
and the lives he touched can be used to get people to come together and make donations.

At one point in the documentary, Bennett utters a simple, yet powerful sentence.

“I want to make a difference in the world.”

For 29 years Bennett was on earth to make a difference in the world of those who knew him. Even after his death he still touches countless lives daily. Now it’s up to
others to try to change it for the better and prevent cases like that of Silas Bennett from taking precious lives away before it’s their time.

 

Mike Steiner can be contacted at msteiner@keeneequinox.com

http://www.keeneequinox.com/news/bennett-s-bravery-documented-1.2364810