When I thought about starting a fund in memory of my son Silas (Sy), I knew very little about nonprofits. My grief over losing Sy was raw and my heart was broken. Somehow through it all, I realized that it was important for me to find a way to carry Sy’s generosity forward into the world, perhaps because I witnessed his generous ways with others, and I couldn’t bear to think of the world without this gift of his in it. I didn’t think about how lofty the idea of starting a fund was or how much I would have to learn; instead I was focused on how courageous Silas had been after being diagnosed with late stage cancer four days before his 28th birthday, how he continued fighting cancer with such humor and gratitude that it left me in awe, and how much I missed him and wanted do something to help others, in his name. I thought about the things that helped Sy maintain his independence as much as was humanly possible during that time, things he had figured out on his own to take back a part of his life that was not about his illness.
Silas had gone back to school to study journalism several years before his diagnosis; he was passionate about making a difference in the lives of others and it was clear that he had found his career path. Once Silas was diagnosed with cancer, he became too ill to continue classes; yet he continued with the things he could control that related to journalism, one of those being photography which he enjoyed immensely. Shortly after his cancer diagnosis, Sy bought himself a good camera and began documenting life through his photography. It gave him something to look forward to and something to focus on that gave him joy. It was so important to Sy that he continued photographing right up until two days before he passed on. Another thing that helped Sy tremendously was reiki and foot reflexology. Because the cancer was in his bones these integrative therapies were the least painful and most relaxing for him. The more I thought about it the clearer it became that Sy had left me with the blueprint of the direction for Sy’s Fun:D.
With our mission of funding meaningful gifts and integrative therapies in mind, I began looking into how to make the idea of Sy’s Fun:D a reality. My dear friend Joanne Wilson was instrumental with helping me figure out the steps needed to legalize the fund, and as we moved forward others stepped up to create a core group of board members and volunteers to work on getting Sy’s Fun:D up and running. In September of 2010 we received our letter from the IRS; Sy’s Fun:D was now established as a 501-C3 nonprofit! Because my son always dreamed big, I chose to make Sy’s Fun:D a national nonprofit vs local. I still remember the excitement of funding our initial recipients during those first few months, and of knowing that a difference was being made in their lives in the name of my much- loved son. Somehow, through the pain and fog of grief, with the love and support of others who cared, I had persevered. Now this beautiful organization had become a reality, and Sy’s dream of making a difference in the world would continue past his time here, rippling out into an even broader circle than those of the lives he had already touched during his lifetime.
In the years since forming Sy’s Fun:D we have funded young adults from all over the United States. I am as elated as ever with what we have accomplished, and still emotionally moved with each person that we fund. Sy was a humble person, and yet I know he would be extremely proud to know that this good work is being done in his name. And while we have had and will continue to have growing pains along the way, it has been an incredibly rich and worthwhile venture, one that would not be possible without the time and energy of a lot of good people. With the focus so often on every bad thing happening in the world, it is refreshing and a great reality check to see how many truly good people there are; people who want to help make the world a better place. Support comes to us from people and businesses/organizations who volunteer in many ways from helping with/participating in fundraising events (ours or their own for Sy’s Fun:D), keeping our website current, sending monetary donations and helping us spread the word about Sy’s Fun:D, to name a few. Some knew Silas personally, and I always enjoy the stories they share about my son. Others who’ve never met Sy are also inspired by the work we do. It humbles me to know there are so many people out there who care deeply about Sy’s Fun:D, and about making a difference in the lives of young adults with cancer; all connected through the generosity of one form or another.
Board members picnicking at the “No Drama BBQ” in September 2018: Terry Bonnette, Melissa Kress, Mickey Coffield, Jamie Reeves, Lorraine Kerz (Sy’s Mom), Whitney Meakin, and Eric Eichner (aka Gertie Galore)
Six of my most treasured Sy’s Fun:D “family” are our board members, who go above and beyond with sharing their time and energy. Our board meets every month to give updates, contemplate ideas, and work out details of what needs to be done next. It may sound somewhat mundane, I know… however, working with this group of dedicated volunteers is anything but. In fact, they keep the fun in fund with their big hearts, great humor, and fresh ideas. They recognize the seriousness of our work, for sure, and yet in the midst of taking care of business, we are often able to find a playfulness in our interactions with one another during meetings. In part, these wonderful people work tirelessly to coordinate events, bring in donations, keep our records in order, gather information through research, create and implement new ideas, and keep me on task (not always easy). My Aunt Gail recently reminded me of a saying my Grandma once told her, which is from Wayne Dyer; “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Thank you Melissa, Terry, Mickey, Jamie, Eric, and Whitney, for working hard and always wanting the best for Sy’s Fun:D, and for so often giving me new and limitless ways to look at things. You are individually and collectively a great inspiration to me, and a blessing for Sy’s Fun:D. For this I thank you.