No one deserves the kind of bombshell news that Elizabeth Scarinzi recently received—a stage four lung and brain cancer diagnosis. The world is indeed unfair, but it can also be kind, as Scarinzi has seen in the immediate mobilization of support by the Santa Fe community as well as her hometown friends from Tucson, Arizona, in the form of Betsy Fest. It's two separate nights (the other one will be in January in Madrid) packed with music, revelry and a silent auction to assist Scarinzi in finding a second opinion for her treatment options with experts in Texas.
Scarinzi, a registered nurse with over 20 years' experience and known to most as Betsy, has also become an accomplished local musician in the four short years since she moved to Santa Fe. Her band, the HollyHocks, has played around town, including the Santa Fe Bandstand on the Plaza, and is known for their high-energy desert rock with a tinge of country indicative of Scarinzi's Tucson roots. Scarinzi is the primary songwriter and singer, and though the band has only been together about a year, they are currently at work on their debut album with producer Jason Reed at Frogville Studios after a generous anonymous donation.
While the reason for everyone coming together is undeniably serious, Scarinzi is upbeat and positive. She tells SFR she will indeed be able to perform at her own benefit due to her specialized treatment that does not include general chemo.
"The good news is the side effects are present but they're way less than people on chemo who usually can't leave the house," Scarinzi says. "So this is my opportunity to keep doing the things I love with the people I love and playing music. The downside is that the therapy will only work for so long and then the cancer mutates again and the therapy becomes ineffective."
Hence the need to raise money for specialists in Houston to re-evaluate her options. In the meantime, Scarinzi does not intend to stay at home.
"As long as my bloodwork is good with a good immune system to protect me, I'm out and about," she says.
Mathiew McClinton, Scarinzi's fiance and bassist in the Hollyhocks, put the benefit together which includes local powerhouse musicians like Jono Manson and Tihomir Dimitrov. Also packing the bill are Tucsonans who, by all accounts, are happy to make the trek out to show their support—Hank Topless, a country singer-songwriter in the outlaw mold of Townes van Zandt and Willie Nelson, will perform, as well as Joe Peña of Greyhound Soul who anyone from Tucson can tell you is a long-running rock act that never fails to draw a crowd or garner year-end "best rock band" nods from locals. Betsy Fest features numerous other special guests as well.
"The one thing that's just been staggeringly amazing is the outpouring of support from this community, from Tucson—it's just been amazing. Santa Fe has been absolutely fantastic," McClinton says. "It's been a little overwhelming and very cool."
Perhaps most importantly, the benefit marks the return of the HollyHocks, who had been forced to cancel several gigs following Scarinzi's diagnosis. Felicia Ford and Teri Lynn Browning are scheduled to provide their singing chops to Scarinzi's songwriting, with Scarinzi herself likely fronting the band to close out the show. In addition to all of the great music, a silent auction of items from local jewelers, guitar vendors and artists is set to take place just in time for the holidays, so you can forget about your Amazon cart. The event is also free, with an open invitation to give any donation you can. So while many have already stepped up to the plate in support of a vibrant community leader, now is the chance for the rest of us to show how much love Santa Fe can bring.
So yeah, the world is not always fair, but the kindness you find in it doesn't come from nowhere. It comes from us.
6 pm Wednesday Dec. 12. Free; donations encouraged.
Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery,
2791 Agua Fría St.