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Infinity

April 3, 2019
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.

Lorraine

The Gift of a New Year

January 18, 2019

And just like that, the last day of 2018 was celebrated and 2019 arrived…

For those of us whose lives have been touched by cancer, it is recognized that a new day, and certainly a new year, is a gift, not a given. I imagine the new year will bring with it a mixture of emotions for many, depending on what 2018 held and what emerges during the next twelve months.

Over this past year I have had the privilege of talking with many young adults through my work with Sy’s Fun:D who have been handed the enormous challenge a cancer diagnosis brings with it. Some need help with the application process, and others call with questions about if or how we can help and what exactly it is that we do. Some wonder if we help with financial assistance (we do not), and because of how unique Sy’s Fun:D is, they are usually pleasantly surprised when I explain what we do provide.

Quite often, that leads to a longer conversation about their interests and gets them thinking and dreaming about what would be most helpful or fun. Hearing the excitement in the voices of the young adults I talk with when they find out what we do and how we can help is such a good feeling; it reminds me of how critically important it was for my son Sy to have things to take his mind away from the world of cancer, if only for a moment in time, amidst the physical pain, uncertainty, and anxiety.

When Tyrome, age 32, got in touch with us, he and I discussed his love of technology and gaming, as well as his wanting to stay in touch with friends. Because of this, he decided on a high capacity Wi-Fi router and new laptop as his gifts from Sy’s Fun:D. Tyrome is one of those people who just naturally touches your heart with his friendly demeanor and quick humor.

Tyrome & Ashley

Diagnosed with a brain tumor at 25, Tyrome has had several surgeries as well as chemotherapy and radiation treatments since then. In his application letter Tyrome wrote about his journey over the past several years; from continuing to work for as long as possible while undergoing treatments for cancer, to the important role his fiancée Ashley and one-year old daughter Isabella play in his life. Tyrome shared that Ashley is his rock who has been with him every step of the way, “in not my fight, but our fight against cancer.”

During the time of his funding, which fell close to Christmas, Tyrome and his family moved to another state. Tyrome shared with me the ups and downs of the move as he continued his cancer treatments, which included falling and chipping a tooth as he was carrying things into their new home and then needing to locate a new dentist, as well as the lighthearted debate with his fiancée over whether the extra room they now have would become a guest room or man cave (guest room won out).

When his gifts from Sy’s Fun:D arrived Tyrome reported with humor that he was on his way home from his oncologist’s office to stare at the boxes since he was not allowed to open them until Christmas. Shortly after, I asked Tyrome if he would share a bit for our blog. Below is Tyrome’s letter, in part, and photos of Tyrome and his family.

“Hello, my name is Tyrome Woodward, a proud and gracious recipient of the Sy’s foundation.

When things were looking their darkest, I had just been put on disability leave from work battling with a glioblastoma brain tumor; I tried to work as long as I could for my family’s sake so that everything wouldn’t fall on my fiancée’s shoulders. I mean she’s already a terrific mother to our one year old daughter, so when all of this hardship began to pile up on me, the darkest clouds parted and SY’S Fun:D offered a gracious hand to help me receive something I wanted for Christmas (Adopt A Family ensured that Ashley and Isabella were taken care of as well).

Tyrome with Ashley & Isabella

Tyrome with Ashley & Isabella

Besides the greatest gift of them all – waking up on Christmas morning to open everything as a family with cocoa and waffles and a vast variety of noise makers for the little one, lol, with help from Sy’s Fun:D I was able to not only get something that I longed for but could also actually use. Don’t get me wrong, I love sweaters and socks, but I’m a tech geek (that also appreciated every gift from my loved ones). I pray that anyone else who falls into days of hardships are lucky enough to come across someone like Lorraine and Sy’s Fund who’s here to help them not give up on life and stay connected because the true test starts with you fighting every day and remaining positive no matter how hard it gets, never give up.”

We wish Tyrome good news only during the year ahead and ask you all to keep Tyrome and his family in your thoughts; those of us here at Sy’s Fun:D surely will as well. I would like to wish everyone a year ahead in which you laugh often, feel loved and valued, experience inner peace and the magic in little things. Also, please be sure to trust your instincts when it comes to your health; if something doesn’t feel right, keep pushing until you get the answers you deserve. In wrapping up, I would like to thank our donors and volunteers; because of your generosity we are able to continue helping young adults with cancer. You are appreciated beyond measure.

Lorraine Kerz, Executive Director of Sy’s Fun:D & Sy’s mama

Entwined Healing

July 10, 2018

Entwined Healing

by Lorraine Kerz

“It is reasonable to expect the doctor to recognize that science may not have all the answers to problems of health and healing.”

“I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep; when the pain-killing effect of the laughter wore off, we would switch on the motion picture projector again and not infrequently, it would lead to another pain-free interval.”

– Norman Cousins

Healing comes in many forms and sometimes in the most unexpected of ways, as political journalist and world peace activist Norman Cousins found out when confronted with a painful connective tissue disease. He was told that he had a one in five hundred chance of recovery, so he created his own recovery program, which included massive doses of intravenous vitamin C and self-induced bouts of laughter. We do not know for sure what cured Cousins of his illness; but I suspect that whatever the reason for his cure, the quality of his life was improved through the choices he made.

For most young adults with cancer, challenging and often painful treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, and/or surgeries are frequently part of the course of healing. Along with the physical pain of cancer, there is also the anxiety, fear, and constant worry that can be as difficult to maneuver around. Doctors work hard to find cures and alleviate pain, and I believe that most in the field of oncology have a deep commitment to the work they are doing and put not only their intellect, but often their heart and soul into their work as well. And still, it takes a village as the saying goes.

During the time Sy was battling cancer, healing did not happen in the way we had hoped or expected; his cancer treatments stopped working early on. And yet, through the way in which Silas handled his situation, I believe that he was able to maintain as much independence as possible throughout his illness, which gave him a better quality of life. The entire oncology staff at Mass General, including his doctors, nurses, surgeon, and social worker, respected him as an independent, intelligent, funny and compassionate young man who wanted to be in control of his own medical treatments. They understood that he had no choice over what was happening in his life, and recognized the importance of him taking charge over decisions that needed to be made around his care. Sometimes Sy would want to go home from the hospital sooner than his medical team deemed in his best interest, and they worked with him around this; at times compromises would be made, at times they wouldn’t; but ultimately it was Sy’s decision. Sy also took charge of cleaning the IV pick line that administered medication through his veins throughout the day during the final months of his life, and gave EMT’s clear, respectful instructions around care in transporting him to the hospital during emergencies around pain management, when necessary.

But there were other forms of healing that was deemed equally important during that time; some found through trial and error, and some inherent to the strong willed, fun loving person he was. Laughter was up there at the top of the list, and so we watched hours of comedy, and delighted in his quirky, fast, and often dry sense of humor. Photography was an incredibly healing modality, and he spent as much time as possible photographing the world around him. Whether it was from his wheelchair or even his bed, he captured many powerful images through the camera lens. Along the way, reiki, foot reflexology, massage, and medical cannabis found their way into the mix, and all of these proved to be as helpful as traditional medicine in what they had to offer for management of anxiety, nausea, appetite, and quality of life.

So it is with Sy’s Fund that we understand the importance of an individual’s expression of healing, and the ways in which their choice of gifts can mean so much. Whether it is a camera, an online class, a laptop, reiki or massage sessions, or art supplies; they all have the power to heal.

Melody

Melody and her amazing soaps!

Melody is a young woman of 18 who is battling a brain tumor. She has also found laughter to be part of her healing, along with her faith. Melody’s dream since childhood had been to become a pastry chef; since getting treatments for the brain tumor, however, she has been told that this will not be possible for her as she is unable to work with some of the ingredients she would have come in contact with. Melody came up with the brilliant idea to make natural soaps, because, as she put it, she will still be able to work with great smells, measuring, different shaped molds, colors and temperature control. We are so grateful for donations that allowed us to send Melody the supplies, equipment, and books needed for her soap making. Her mom let us know that Melody has received most of the gifts already, and that she is so excited that she can begin working toward making products to sell as she had already made some soaps with limited supplies she had on hand and has had so many people wanting to buy them that the timing was perfect! For those who would like to check out her work, please go to her Etsy site: HandcraftedByMelodyH.

Maria

Maria received IV vitamin therapy to ease some of the side effects of her cancer treatments.

Maria is a single mom and artist who has stage 3 metastatic breast cancer. Maria chose IV vitamin therapy to help with her healing, to go along with the traditional cancer treatments she has been receiving. Maria found a place that is staffed by highly qualified people with medical backgrounds, and she is ready to begin treatments soon. You can follow Maria on Instagram theartofmarialaura.

This is what we are all about at Sy’s Fund; giving young adults choices in what they feel is needed to help them heal, and trusting that they know best. Because, as I mentioned earlier, when cancer hits, healing comes in many forms. It is both humbling and inspiring to do this work, and we at Sy’s Fund are honored to be a part of this very individualized process for young adults with cancer.

Thank you all for providing the love and support that makes all of this possible,

Lorraine

A Message from Eric Eichner

April 9, 2018

Sy’s Fun:D. What the hell is it and what does it mean to me?

These are questions I’ve asked myself over the last few years. The former I asked when a friend was looking for a volunteer for an event and the latter– well the latter I revisit often as I sit looking out my office window reflecting on how Sy’s Fun:D has changed me as a person. We can read the mission statement a million times (it may take a while, but it is possible) and know what it states, but what does it mean to me?  So, let’s look at it: “We provide meaningful gifts to young adults ages 18 through 39 dealing with the challenges of cancer; helping them pursue their creative passions and pursuits, as well as providing funding for integrative therapies.”

I’ll start at the beginning: “We…” who is/are the “We.” Well, there’s Sy’s Fun:D itself- “The Board,” the folks “in charge.” In reality “We” is You and I working together so that Sy’s Fun:D has money to spend on those “meaningful gifts” for young adults (who we define as 18-39 years of age). Personally, I look at “helping them pursue their creative passions and pursuits” and think it’s more about helping them “live.” Not to just get through things but to embrace some aspect of “normal.” Something that isn’t cancer which occupies far too many thoughts during far too many moments of their day.

Princess Herceptin

Princess Herceptin with Eric.

My wife (Michele) would have fit “our” demographic perfectly when she had breast cancer, had Sy’s Fun:D existed then. I found so many times during her treatments and recovery that she simply wanted to be “Michele,” not “cancer girl,” “Princess Herceptin,” “Survivor,” or anything else that focused on that one large, but small aspect of her life. She wanted, if only for a moment, to forget she had cancer, was going through treatment, or was still feeling the after effects of everything.

So, what is “meaningful” when it comes to a gift? It’s really not for me to define. It’s for the many applicants we have to determine. What may have helped my wife might not help someone else. We are all different, just like cancer and the treatments. I do believe that if an applicant wants or needs an integrative therapy, then that is a meaningful gift. To ease one’s pain or discomfort may indeed be that thing that brings some normalcy to their lives: to help them live, if even only temporarily.

So, a comforting massage may be as important or joyful to one as a digital camera is to another. Gifts we can give. You. Me. We. We can give these incredible gifts to people in need. I found out it truly is not hard or costly. The more that people help with a small donation here and there, or volunteer at one of our fund raisers over the course of a year, the more it adds up. It all adds up to sizable amounts of money to fund these gifts and a sustainable workload because the work is spread among many folks. It’s pretty amazing what $5 will do and how little we miss it being in our pocket. It is also amazing what a small donation of time does for the fund and how little it impacts our busy schedule.

So, simply put, Sy’s Fun:D is a group of people who want to make a difference, and doing so fills my heart.

Learn more about Eric. Click here to view his bio!

A Message from Lorraine

April 5, 2018

A Message from Lorraine

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” – Leo Buscaglia Spring is just around the corner and in perfect New England style March 1st was sunny and unseasonably warm and the next day we were experiencing a Nor’easter storm, which brought high winds and quite a bit of snow in some towns and causing power outages for some.  It made me think of how unpredictable life can be, sometimes when we least expect it, and how the young adults we serve here at Sy’s Fund know that all too well. Beginning with the moment they are given their cancer diagnosis these young adults face enormous challenges and uncertainties; from the anxious anticipation while waiting for the results of various scans from MRI’s, CT scans, and XRAYS to come in (hence the word “scanxiety” which these tests evoke), discussing and deciding on treatments, to how other areas of life is affected such as changes within their social circles, financial situations, how treatments may affect other aspects of their lives long term, and school or careers to name just a few. The work we do here at Sy’s Fun:D provides that unexpected sunny day to the young adults we serve, so to speak; by giving them something that has nothing to do with illness it often has the benefit of helping our recipients to feel more like they felt before cancer came into their lives; if only for a short respite. Since 2010 we have funded gifts like new laptops, cameras, gym memberships, art supplies, musical instruments, bikes, and cooking classes, to list a few.  Often we hear from the young adults we serve that these gifts have given them a reason to smile for the first time since starting a grueling cancer treatment, or have made them feel more like their old selves for the first time since being diagnosed.

Carrie’s art work.

During the month of February of this year, we funded two young women from our waiting list. One of them, Carrie, who is battling metastatic breast cancer, had this to say when she received her requested gift of professional face painting supplies, “I find that this foundation has really lifted my spirits in a way that other places can’t. I was in the best mood all day Friday, and I was even able to share my experience with you guys to others. Face painting has become my outlet during my cancer journey, and to be able to have the supplies to do it makes it all the more special. Sy’s Fun:D is a dream for anyone who just needs a little pick me up for a long period of time. I will always be grateful for them!”

Carrie’s art supplies.

Sy’s Fun:D would like to thank everyone who attended our fourth annual Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament at Kilkenny’s Pub in Keene, NH on February 18th. Through your donations, Carrie’s gift was made possible. The Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament is the inspiration of Sy’s Fun:D board member Mickey Coffield, who also organizes this event each year.  Along with the excitement and fun in the room during the tournament, it is impressive to see this group of dedicated individuals come together each year to help Sy’s Fun:D raise money, and it is a testament as to how a small group of generous, compassionate and determined people can make a big difference in the life of someone who is fighting hard to heal from cancer.   2018 also brought with it a beautiful tribute to Silas “Sy” River Bennett; the birth of a little boy to Sy’s dear friend Zack Vezzani and his wife Kelly, whom they lovingly named Silas. Welcome to the world little one!

A Message from Soma

March 6, 2018
In March of 2011 at age 18, Soma was diagnosed with Hereditary Gastric Carcinoma. She contacted Sy’s Fund in 2013 hoping to get help with her college tuition. Her request was granted and Sy’s Fund paid $250 of her tuition. This week we reached out to her to see if she could help us in spreading the word about the work we do. This was her response: “Thanks to Sy’s fund’s generosity, I was able to graduate from my undergrad and attend the University of Cambridge for my Masters—where I actually studied the Sociology of Fundraising. I am now the Fundraising Development Officer for a College of the University, and raise scholarship funds to support other students. Thus, Sy’s Fund—and the love, kindness, and inspiration it represents—holds a very special place in my heart. Wishing you and Sy’s Fund Family all the best this 2018!”

soma

Soma at graduation.