The Sophie Fund is proud to announce that Alternatives Federal Credit Union is a sponsor of the 2nd Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest held this Saturday October 14.
Besides helping underwrite the costs of the contest with a financial donation, the fantastic Alternatives team has been working with us behind the scenes to make the event even better than last year. Among the additional features: a coloring contest for the kids (up to age 8). Participants won’t be disappointed!
We’re glad to share in the uniqueness that Alternatives brings to Ithaca. Cornell University (’73) social psychology grad Bill Myers founded Alternatives in 1979 with a mission of serving low and moderate-income people and communities. It prides itself in providing access to safe financial services and education for underserved people.
As a Community Development Credit Union, Alternatives is member-owned, locally controlled, and self-supporting. According to its statement of purpose:
“We believe that by controlling the flow of funds within a small community, the community can build itself to suit its own needs and be more self-reliant. Our social mission is integrated into our economic mission, so for whatever reason, joining Alternatives is making a choice towards a more economically just community.”
Alternatives has been recognized for its social mission and standard of excellence. In 2014, the National Credit Union Association ranked Alternatives as the No. 1 Community Development Financial Institution in the United States.
In 2011, the Wells Fargo Next Awards presented Alternatives with its Advocacy Award for its policy and advocacy leadership on a living wage that began as a local effort and grew into a national movement.
The Sophie Fund is honored to work with Alternatives in our efforts to support mental health initiatives aiding young people in our community.
“Service” is a word bursting with meaning for the Alpha Phi Omega–Gamma Chapter Service Team, as we have learned first-hand here at The Sophie Fund.
A little more than a year ago, we decided to organize a cupcake baking contest in the Ithaca Commons. Our idea was to raise some money for mental health initiatives, bring some cupcake joy to Ithaca, and fight the stigma around mental health and treatment. Sophie (’14) was an avid baker and loved baking cupcakes from an early age.
An APO brother came across some publicity for the contest and quickly contacted us. She said she would encourage APO Gamma brothers to bake some cupcakes, but she also wanted to know “if there was any way our brothers could help out.”
Our answer was “Yes!” The truth was that we had thrown the contest together at the last minute, and we desperately needed help with logistics on event day. APO Gamma dispatched a dozen or so brothers to the Bernie Milton Pavilion who helped with everything from registering scores of contestants, inventorying the cupcakes for panels of judges, preparing awards certificates for the winners, and mopping up the site afterwards. The flood of contestants was much more than we anticipated. The 1st Annual Cupcake Baking Contest was a big success.
APO Gamma, we couldn’t have done it without you!
In January, APO Gamma was ready to start talking about how they could support the 2nd Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest 10 months away. In numerous meetings at Starbucks downtown and at Willard Straight Hall on campus (not to mention countless emails), APO Gamma helped us design a sequel that included a fun fundraising element—collecting donations for mental health initiatives and giving donors “cupcake buttons” in return.
Starting in late September, APO Gamma squads fanned out to Ho Plaza, GreenStar Natural Foods Market, and the Apple Harvest Festival to advocate for mental health, take donations for this year’s cause—suicide prevention—and promote the cupcake contest to be held in the Commons on October 14. APO Gamma raised more than $500, well above our expectations.
More important, the brothers’ presence on campus and in the community generated further awareness and prompted conversations that make a difference and could save a life. We know from Sophie’s experience with depression and anxiety, which led her to take a health leave of absence only six months away from graduation, how important it is to know that there is help, that people care.
At The Sophie Fund, we are overwhelmed not only by APO Gamma’s aid with fundraising and contest logistics, but by the heart that the brothers put into their service to the community. We know that APO Gamma is involved around the clock in so many other projects supporting mental health. It is truly something to admire.
We’re expecting a larger turnout for the 2017 cupcake contest. Once again, it wouldn’t happen without APO Gamma.
(Editor’s Note: This blog post written by The Sophie Fund originally appeared October 10, 2017 on the Service Blog of Alpha Phi Omega—Gamma Chapter)
Photo Caption: APO Gamma brothers volunteering for the 2016 Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest
Demi Lovato just released her new album Tell Me You Love Me—and once again she uses her platform to educate her fans and the general public about mental illness. In songs like “You Don’t Do It For Me Anymore” and “Sorry Not Sorry,” she liberates herself from a past damaged by addiction and bullying.
The 25-year-old former child actress on Barney & Friendsspoke with NPR’s Ailsa Chang on All Things Considered Friday about the new album, her R&B influences, and encouraging others to open up about their mental health struggles (transcript and audio clip via NPR):
Listen to interview by clicking above
Ailsa Chang: You grew up in a family that was used to being on stage. Was there ever any question about what you would end up doing with your life?
Demi Lovato: I don’t think there was any question that I would end up as a musician or an actress. The first time I stepped on stage was in kindergarten—it was at my school’s talent show. I fell in love with being on stage and with singing at a very young age. I loved the emotion that I could pour out on stage; I mean, I wasn’t really pouring out emotion when I was 4! But when I started performing, I loved using my body to express the words in the songs that I was singing.
Ailsa Chang: But the constant spotlight wasn’t always kind to you. You’ve talked about being bullied about your weight at an early age. You struggled with eating disorders, even suicidal thoughts—and eventually, you turned to drugs.
Demi Lovato: Yeah, I’ve dealt with a lot, and I struggled a lot. But I’m in a really great place today. I’ve opened up and shared my story many times, and I opened up about the things that I coped with. It was a really rough time. But I feel like I have a really good handle on my life. I’m five and a half years sober now, and I’m in recovery for my eating disorder as well.
Ailsa Chang: I want to talk about a song on your album, “You Don’t Do It For Me Anymore.” In the verse, you sing: “I see the future without you / the hell was I doing in the past? / Now that I’ve learned all about you / A love just like ours wouldn’t last” — Who is that you’re letting go of?
Demi Lovato: I actually was singing this song about my alcohol and drug addiction. When you first hear it you think, “Wow, that’s pretty harsh for an ex-boyfriend!” But for me, it was about my old self and—
Ailsa Chang: You were breaking up with your old self.
Demi Lovato: Yeah, I was breaking up with my old self. Definitely.
Ailsa Chang: What was the rock bottom for you?
Demi Lovato: Rock bottom hit me in a moment when I was drinking vodka out of a Sprite bottle at nine in the morning on my way to the airport. I actually threw up in the back of the car service, and I had a moment where I thought to myself, “Wow, this is no longer glamorous. This is no longer a young person having fun with drinking and alcohol and experimentation. This is actually pathetic and sad.” And I felt like there needed to be a change in my life, because I had gotten to a place where I was no longer proud of myself and the person I had become.
Ailsa Chang: When you were in rehab, you were diagnosed with bipolar disorder and you talk very candidly about your mental illness. You also advocate for others to be open about their mental illnesses. Why is it important to you to talk about mental health in such a public way?
Demi Lovato: There are many, many mental illnesses that people struggle with on a day-to-day basis, and nobody feels comfortable enough to talk about it and to get the help that they need. We could prevent … so many lives [being] destroyed by mental illness if we just talk about it and we take the stigma away from it.
Ailsa Chang: Do you get tired of talking about your mental illness? Do you worry that it becomes a story that you’re known for — that it’s this narrative that drives your new music and it’s this thing that you have to keep talking about in interviews?
Demi Lovato: Well, fortunately my new music isn’t all about my struggles. It has a lot to do with my journey and my life and where I’m at today as a single 25-year-old woman who is living on her own for the first time [and] who has gone through a breakup that was really impactful, who is dating; you know, a bunch of stuff that you can relate to. There are times when I’m doing interviews and I feel like I sound repetitive. It’s not that I feel obligated or pressured to talk about it or that I get tired about talking about it; I just fear that sometimes people get tired of hearing my story.
Ailsa Chang: You know, your commitment to being really open and honest about yourself, it’s a commitment that is all over another song on your new album, “Sorry Not Sorry.” It sounds like you’re totally done with apologizing. What does that feel like?
Demi Lovato: It feels liberating. And the song actually was written — for me, again, it wasn’t written for an ex-boyfriend or anything like that. I was thinking about the bullies that bullied me in school, and how well I’m doing in my life today, and how I don’t give a flying f*** about it. I’ve spent so many years apologizing for my behavior and for the person that I used to be, so now I no longer am apologizing for who I was.
Ailsa Chang: Can you tell me how you got there? I know that’s a huge question, but you are 25; I know you have gone through so much in life. I’m 41 and I wish I could say, “Yeah, I’m done apologizing for myself. I’m done explaining myself and looking for justification.”
Demi Lovato: I think I’ve lived a lot of life. What people typically go through at an older age—I accelerated my life at a younger age with the struggles that I’ve had. And, I feel like I’ve had incredible people around me who have helped me get here; I can’t take all the credit myself. It’s a daily thing where I think about it, you know—some days are easier than others. But staying sober and staying in recovery is extremely important and I have people around me that hold me accountable for it. So it’s easy and sometimes difficult; but for the most part, I’ve just lived a lot of life.
Ailsa Chang: There are parts of this album that come from a pretty vulnerable place, but this is also a really, really fun album. It’s playful, it’s sexy. You talk about being single and dating. There’s one song called “Sexy Dirty Love”—who are you writing this song for?
Demi Lovato: I was writing this song for somebody that I was really interested in—somebody that I had been talking to, that I had a crush on. And, you know, when you go into the studio, you feel very inspired by the things that are happening in your daily life and this was where I was at. I was feeling confident, feeling sexy and I wanted to write a song about it.
Ailsa Chang: Your new album also has this really strong R&B feel to it. Is that something new you brought in through your vocals?
Demi Lovato: It’s something I wanted to explore when I started making this album because recently [during] the Grammys performance, I was able to showcase my vocals more than my pop music was doing. People…had known my songs, but they didn’t know I could sing the way that I can. I knew with this album it was a goal of mine to show the world the voice that I have. And I wanted to go more soulful with it, because that’s the type of music that I have fun singing.
Read the blog post “Demi Lovato’s Story” from 2016 here.
Not very long ago, there was a debilitating stigma around breast cancer. After Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s quick and public announcement this week revealing that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer, USA Today published a great piece tracing how the stigma has been largely overcome. Are there some lessons here for breaking the stigma around mental health? Let’s hope so!
Looking at “some of the big moments that took breast cancer out of the dark and into the pink,” the article starts with Terese Lasser, “the very first true activist… who bumped against the system.” Lasser questioned her surgeon’s indifference, and eventually formed the Reach to Recovery program to support women coping with breast cancer.
Perhaps we need more Terese Lassers bumping “against the system” in mental health.
The article cites a “huge event”—when then-First Lady Betty Ford announced publicly, in 1974, that she had breast cancer.
Thankfully, more and more public figures are “going public” with their mental health struggles. But more often than not, these testimonials are either overlooked by the media, or overshadowed by coverage of behaviors related to the public figures’ disorders.
The article reports on how in 1982 Nancy Brinker founded the first organization to target fundraising for breast cancer research, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. In 2015, Susan G. Komen, just one of many organizations doing this work, reported revenue of $118.4 million. One in 8 women get breast cancer.
Mental health advocates must find more effective ways to fund mental health research. By contrast, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in 2015 raised less than one-fifth of that—$19.4 million—for its research and advocacy programs. An important organization dealing more broadly with mental health research, the Child Mind Institute, pulled in $11.2 million. An estimated 1 in 5 Americans experienced mental illness in 2015.
USA Today notes how more women were elected to Congress in 1992, and some of them took up the breast cancer cause (including some with personal family experience).
Former Republican Senator Gordan H. Smith of Utah was one such champion for mental health in Congress. After his son died by suicide at age 21 in 2003, Smith pushed for passage of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act. It has provided millions in government funds for suicide prevention projects across the nation.
Explaining the success of the fight against breast cancer, a spokesman for the Susan H. Komen foundation remarked: “It affects people we just really love. Our moms and our daughters. Our grandmothers and our sisters. And in some cases our dads.”
Mental illness, too, affects people we just really love.
Caption: The semicolon is a symbol of suicide prevention, the brainchild of Project Semicolon whose slogan holds that “your story isn’t over yet.”
Sophie’s own longstanding passion for baking and cupcakes inspired the launch of the contest. At the time of her death by suicide at age 23, while on a medical leave of absence from Cornell, Sophie was active in Ithaca’s vibrant culinary scene. According to her family, she hoped to open her own bakery after completing her Cornell degree.
To enter the cupcake contest, entrants are asked to bring their submissions to the Bernie Milton Pavilion in the Ithaca Commons from 10–11:30 a.m. on Saturday October 14. The winners will be announced and prizes awarded at a ceremony in the Pavilion later the same day at 3 p.m.
Last year, 57 contestants participated in the bake off, with Monica Lee Cotto taking home the top prize with a pumpkin cheesecake cupcake, set in a chocolate cage and topped with a confectionery yellow and coral rose and a butterfly crisp. The Best Youth Award went to 9-year-old Natalie McCaskill-Myers, who submitted a batch of lemon cherry cupcakes laced with lavender.
Sophie was born in Johannesburg and spent her childhood living in South Africa, then France, and eventually Egypt. But she adopted Ithaca as her hometown, spending five summers in the violin program of the Suzuki Institutes at Ithaca College and then enrolling at Cornell in 2010.
In conjunction with the contest, The Sophie Fund is organizing a fundraising campaign, with monies donated to suicide prevention causes in Ithaca and Tompkins County.
Click here for all the information on contest procedures and rules, and to download a registration form.