Sy’s Fund is hosting a virtual app-based scavenger hunt to raise money for young adults with cancer.
Quest Fest 2021 will be held April 10 and 11 and will give players up to five hours to complete various activities, challenges and trivia questions. The scavenger hunt is conducted through an app called “Let’s Roam.” Participants can download the app on their phone for free and they will be able to keep track of their progress through the app. Executive Director and Founder of Sy’s Fund Lorraine Kerz said the event is ideal for the pandemic because it allows people to participate from anywhere, in-person with a team or even remotely.
“It’s been difficult raising money during COVID,” Kerz said. “We had to rack our brains together on what we can do to raise money while also staying distanced.
Participants will be able to register for the event and donate to Sy’s Fund by going to https://givebutter.com/QuestFest2021SysFund.
Sy’s Fund is a non-profit organization that supports young adults ages 19 to 39 who are living with cancer. The organization was started by Kerz following the passing of her son, Silas Bennett, to cancer in 2008. Keene State College student Bennett was 29.
“I was compelled as a mom,” Kerz said. “I wanted to keep his generous spirit moving forward in the world. I realized how important it is for young adults to maintain an identity away from cancer. My work with Sy’s Fund is close to my heart, it’s a connection with my son. But it’s taken a life of its own with every life we reach.”
Kerz said that since starting Sy’s Fund, the organization has funded over 250 young adults. She spent the last seven months working on putting together Quest Fest 2021. Kerz was always thinking about how to make events fun because “Sy loved to have fun,” she said.
He was a generous soul and he had a funny bone,” Kerz said about her son. “He was very intelligent even while ill. We would watch jeopardy and he would rattle off answers that no one knew the answer to. He marvelled at both the big things and the little things. He had a great sense of fun.
One of Silas’s good friends growing up was a man he met in highschool, Zack Vezzani. Vezanni said he moved to Keene his junior year of highschool and that is when he met Bennett.
“We were skipping school to go to the lake,” Vezanni said. “We had just met but we bonded immediately. Ever since that day we spent everyday doing boy stuff.”
Vezzani said he and Bennett became like brothers. After highschool, they got an apartment together. They were always going outdoors and swimming, constantly going out. “He had this way with everyone. He had this look in his blue eyes where he could just smooth someone,” Vezzani said. “He had this aura.”
Vezzani said they stopped living together when Bennett enrolled at Keene State, however, he said they stayed in contact the whole time.
Kerz said Bennett studied journalism while at Keene. “He always had an interest in world news and a great sense of social justice,” Kerz said. “He wanted to help however he could.”
One of Bennett’s journalism professors was Dr. Marianne Salcetti. Salcetti said she first met Bennett in one of her classes.
“From the get go, he was a student you noticed given his thrive, enthusiasm and commitment to social justice issues as a journalist,” Salcetti said. “I think about the loss in American journalism with his cruel passing at the age of 29. It wasn’t fair then and it’s not fair now.”
Salcetti said a standout moment for Bennett as a journalism student took place in 2006 when the late Sen. John McCain visited Keene, New Hampshire.
According to NPR, Bennett had asked McCain a question regarding him having agreed to give a commencement speech at Liberty University, which was headed by Rev. Jerry Falwell who McCain had previously referred to as an agent of intolerance in 2000.
“He called into question hypocrisy and what happened to be McCain’s strategy at the time,” Salcetti said. “That question got picked up by all the national media that were there.”
After the event, Salcetti said Bennett went to visit her in the hospital and tell her. “I was so proud of him,” she said. “His potential was limitless. He could cut through smoke and mirrors with an eye towards making things better for people. He was very supportive of others, he would reach behind him to bring along those behind him.”
“Ultimately, Silas and I transcended our student-teacher relationship,” Salcetti said. “We became cancer buddies and the grace and bravery he exhibited during that time was inspiring.”
When Bennett was diagnosed with cancer and fell ill, Vezzani said he dropped his entire life and stayed with him for about three weeks until Bennett passed.
“You go to the people you can trust,” Vezzani said. “You don’t find a lot of those people in the end. We both had issues with our dads. We were both father figures for each other and we had this super tight bond.”
Salcetti said she is inspired by how Kerz started Sy’s Fund in honor of her son.
“I am in awe of how Lorraine has taken grief and sorrow and created a program that has helped so many young people and made their lives better,” Salcetti said. “Silas would be as proud of her as she is of him.”
Hunter Oberst can be contacted at: