Friend of MHA Award for The Sophie Fund

The Sophie Fund has received the 2023 Friend of the Mental Health Association Award from the Mental Health Association in New York State (MHANYS). The honor was presented to Scott MacLeod, co-founder of The Sophie Fund, at the organization’s Annual Awards Dinner in Albany on October 23.

Josephine Gibson, executive director of the Mental Health Association in Tompkins County (MHATC), nominated The Sophie Fund for the award for its “unwavering commitment to our community’s mental health and supporting the mission of the Mental Health Association.”

She described The Sophie Fund as an “ally” and “fast friend” which “has made a major impact on our reach and ability to provide quality mental health education and support services to community members.”

Gibson said that The Sophie Fund enabled her organization to host book talks with authors who write about mental health, provide free Mental Health First Aid trainings to workers in the hospitality industry and staff and students at Tompkins Cortland Community College, hire a paid intern to engage in advocacy work at Cornell University, and educate the community at large.

Just recently, she added, The Sophie Fund collaborated with the Mental Health Association to organize a youth art show to culminate National Bullying Prevention Month.

Gibson also cited The Sophie Fund’s leadership in various community initiatives, such as the Tompkins County Suicide Prevention Coalition and the Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force. She said The Sophie Fund worked with her organization to help ensure that the voices of its peer specialists were included in such initiatives.

The Sophie Fund was established as a community advocacy organization by MacLeod and his wife Susan Hack in memory of their daughter Sophie, a Cornell University student who died by suicide in Ithaca in 2016. The organization supports mental health initiatives aiding young people in the Ithaca area.

Accepting the award, MacLeod said that The Sophie Fund was humbled by the recognition but focused credit on service organizations like the Mental Health Association for providing face to face, day to day support to those in need.

Scott MacLeod, speaking at the MHANYS Annual Awards Dinner

“We thank Josephine Gibson and her incredibly devoted and experienced team at the Mental Health Association for nominating The Sophie Fund ,” MacLeod said. “We thank them for the essential work they do to support mental health in our community. We feel extremely privileged and honored for the opportunity to work together in this mission.”

The MHANYS awards dinner was hosted by Executive Director Glenn Liebman and attended by more than 100 people, including New York State Mental Health Commissioner Ann Marie Sullivan and Patricia Fahy, chair of the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Higher Education.

Ann Marie Sullivan and Glenn Liebman

Patricia Fahy, speaking at the MHANYS Annual Awards Dinner

MHANYS, an affiliate of Mental Health America, was incorporated in 1960 and has 26 affiliates in 50 counties throughout New York State. Its mission is to improve the lives of individuals, families, and communities by raising mental health awareness, ending stigma and discrimination, and promoting wellness and recovery.

Note from MHANYS about the bell that adorns its awards:

During the early days of mental health treatment, asylums often restrained persons with mental illnesses with iron chains and shackles around their ankles and wrists. Clifford Beers, the founder of the Mental Health Association movement, experienced and witnessed many of these and other abuses. After his own recovery, he became a leading figure in the movement to reform the treatment of, and attitudes toward, mental illness. With better understanding and treatments, cruel practices eventually stopped.

In the early 1950s, in the lobby of the national headquarters in New York City, the Mental Health Association collected discarded chains and shackles from asylums across the country. All of these restraints were then shipped to the McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore where they were dropped into a crucible and cast into a 300 pound bell with the inscription “Cast from shackles which bound them, this bell shall ring out hope for the mentally ill and victory over mental illness.”

Photo credits: MHANYS

Musicians for Mental Health

The Sophie Fund expresses its gratitude to the wonderful musicians who preformed at the 8th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest on October 14: SingTrece & Kenneth McLaurin, Rachel Beverly, and Joe Gibson & Dan Collins. Thank you for amplifying the mission for mental health in our community!

SingTrece & Kenneth McLaurin

Rachel Beverly

Joe Gibson & Dan Collins

Thank You, Cornell Mental Health Advocates!

Cornell University students from five campus organizations supported the 8th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest and the related Cupcake Button fundraising campaign for mental health.

Participating groups included Cornell Circle K, Pre-Professional Association Toward Careers in Health (PATCH), Alpha Phi Omega–Gamma Chapter, Phi Sigma Pi, and Cornell Minds Matter.

In brief remarks at the contest award’s ceremony on October 14, Cornell Circle K Vice President Max Fante spoke about his organization’s commitment to community service and the importance of campus mental health.

“A lot of us are dealing with high stress, uncertainty about the future, and it is important to recognize that youth have mental health needs,” Fante said. “I’m very grateful for all of you to be [mental health] advocates.”

Leaders of Cornell Circle K volunteering at the Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest

Fante along with leaders from other student groups spearheaded the Cupcake Button campaign, which is coordinated by The Sophie Fund and collects donations for a local nonprofit organization supporting mental health.

This year, the campaign raised monies for the Greg Eells Memorial Fund at Family & Children’s Service of Ithaca. The fund, established in honor of the late Greg Eells, provides wellness support and continuing education opportunities for the organization’s own staff members.

At the cupcake contest, the student volunteers set up the venue, conducted contest registration, served as preliminary round judges, created special award certificates, and cleaned the event space afterwards.

Volunteers from Cornell’s Phi Sigma Pi chapter

“We are forever grateful to work together with Max Fante and all the other student volunteers in creating the cupcake contest and the fundraiser every year,” said Scott MacLeod, co-founder of The Sophie Fund. “Both activities are designed to help raise awareness, fight stigma, start conversations, and provide support around mental health. The Cornell student organizations are wonderful advocates for mental health on their campus.”

Saluting Mental Health Heroes

Mental health leaders in Tompkins County highlighted available community services and underlined the importance of supporting the well-being of mental health workers during the 8th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest.

The organizations participating included: Be Kind Ithaca; Free Hugs Ithaca; Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service; Mental Health Association in Tompkins County; National Alliance on Mental Illness Finger Lakes; Family & Children’s Service of Ithaca; Health and Unity for Greg; and Advocacy Center of Tompkins County, and Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force.

Kayla and Michelle Eells of Health and Unity for Greg

Alecia Sundsmo, director of Clinical Services at Family & Children’s Service of Ithaca, said that her agency provides mental health care across the age spectrum regardless of ability to pay.

“One of the amazing things about Family and Children’s is that we can really provide mental health care from our zero-to-five program all the way up to our geriatric mental health program,” she said. “Somebody is never turned away. We know that equity across access to healthcare is so critical to making sure that people have the care that they need in the community where they live and work.”

Sundsmo also noted the agency’s outreach programs “to make sure that we reach folks who might have some additional stigma or barriers to seeking access to care. We go out and help them and find them and make sure that we can provide social supports in the community.” She said that the outreach includes community education programs and extends to supporting mental health in local businesses through their Employee Assistance Programs.

Michelle Eells of Health & United for Greg thanked Family & Children’s for establishing the Greg Eells Memorial Fund in honor of her husband, who died by suicide in 2019. Greg Eells was a veteran psychologist and active member of the Family & Children’s board.

“The fund helps provide wellness support and education to the Family and Children’s Service clinicians and staff,” Eells explained. “As mental health providers and caregivers who care vehemently for others and take it all in, they also need to be supported and make a priority to care for themselves.”

The Greg Eells Memorial Fund is the recipient of the 2023 Cupcake Button fundraising campaign organized by The Sophie Fund, which collects donations every year to support a local mental health nonprofit.

Lovisa Johanson of Family & Children’s Service of Ithaca

Samantha Shoemaker of Free Hugs Ithaca and Darrell Harrington of Be Kind Ithaca

Olivia Duell of the Advocacy Center of Tompkins County

Brandi Remington of the Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force

Skip Knoll and Virginia Cook of The Sophie Fund

Stacy Ayres and Crystal Howser of AFSP Greater Central New York

Kathy Taylor and Sandra Sorensen of NAMI Finger Lakes