A benefit of remembrance in Silt | PostIndependent.com

A benefit of remembrance in Silt

Stina Sieg
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Courtesy photo

SILT, Colorado ” Desiree Carpenter remembers the happy, huge crowd that came to last year’s Zach Schwartz Memorial Benefit Concert. As she looked out at Zach’s friends, classmates and teachers, of course she missed her son ” but she felt something else, as well.

“It made me feel so proud to be the mom of this kid,” she said.

Now in its second year, the day of music and activities is a fundraiser for scholarships in memory of Zach. On July 4, 2006, he was killed in a car accident at 16. Soon after, his former coach and family friend Mike Cox decided to start a memorial fund in Zach’s name. A year later, with the help of Zach’s cousin, Jimmy Macias, Mike’s wife, Kelley, and several more from the community (including the late Lonnie Sandoval from Cowboy Attitude), the first benefit concert was held at Coal Ridge High School. By the end of the evening, about $11,000 had been raised to help kids with college and sports-related expenses.

“It was just so awesome to see all those people,” said Desiree. “It’s a really beautiful thing.”

This year, she hopes, will only be bigger. Held this time at Veteran’s Park in Silt, the whole event has been extended. Ten bands, including Jimmy’s (2 Real 4 da Mind) and Zach’s brother, Josh Schwartz’s (In Shining Armour), will show off their stuff. Throughout the day, there will be food, a dunk tank and a face painting booth. A real community effort, the event will feature donations from the community in its silent auction. The town of Silt is helping out with the insurance fees that are charged to use the park.

“It’s just a good feeling place to be,” explained Desiree. “Local support and supporting the kids is what it all boils down to.”

Doing this, she went on, is no piece of cake. It’s a stressful load of work. Still, it feels worth it. Seeing all the support from this “amazing community” and being able to help other kids keeps her going, she said. She recalled being at awards dinners this year at various high schools, where four students were each awarded a $2,500 scholarship. To her, nothing can compare to that mixture of emotions.

“My heart felt so big and so sad and yet so proud,” she said, “and I was so happy to be able to do this in his name.”

Ken Carpenter, Zach’s stepfather, had a similar sense of amazement at this phenomenon.

“It’s like our lives now. It’s all we want to do,” he said. “We don’t have Zach, but we do have this.”

What surprised him about last year’s shindig was just how many people Zach had touched in his life. There were all these folks that neither Desiree nor Ken had even met that cared deeply for Zach. Ken says he and his wife were always so busy with their jobs and family, so “work, work, work,” that they very seldom got out to socialize. It was only after Zach passed that Ken realized how much a part of the community Zach had been. Ken sounded impressed by this “other life” of Zach’s, one that was full of friends and acquaintances of ages and backgrounds. These days, Ken feels like his family fits right into the people here. In his eyes, they’ve been practically “adopted by Silt.” And he feels he owes of a lot of this to Zach’s friendly, open example ” something he had no idea about until Zach was gone.

“Knowing that, it changed me to be more like him,” Ken said.

Now, that’s a legacy.

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