Thank You, Cornell Student Mental Health Champions

The Sophie Fund organizes an annual “Cupcake Button Campaign” each fall to support local mental health organizations. College students fan out across campus and the wider community soliciting donations and awarding generous souls with buttons depicting a colorful cupcake. The campaign is a run-up to the annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest, held in the Commons in mid-October.

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“Cupcake a Cornellian”

Students from Cornell University outdid themselves this year: they collected some 300 donations totaling $1,367.50, smashing last year’s record of $829.50 that went to the Suicide Prevention and Crisis Service.

The 2018 goal was to raise monies for the Mental Health Association in Tompkins County, a nonprofit advocacy and service organization that runs critical training and education programs as well as community social events. The Sophie Fund will present the Cupcake Button Campaign donations to the Mental Health Association at a ceremony in January.

The student groups behind this year’s fundraising included Cornell Minds Matter (CMM), Alpha Phi Omega Gamma Chapter (APO), Phi Sigma Pi honor fraternity, PATCH (Pre-Professional Association Towards Careers in Health), and the Mortar Board Der Hexenkreis Senior Honor Society.

A highlight of the campaign: “Cupcake a Cornellian,” an event held in Cornell’s Arts Quad on October 12 in which students made donations in exchange for the opportunity to mash a gooey cupcake (or just a heaping plate of whipped cream) into the face of a student leader.

APO President Winnie Ho praised the Cornell organizations and spoke about how the campaign raised awareness as well as money:

“Every penny of our fundraising total this year was due to the hard work of volunteers who engaged students and community members at Ho Plaza, the Arts Quad, and at the Collegetown GreenStar Natural Foods location. Beyond the impressive totals, the conversations that were fostered continue to be the most valuable experience of each year’s fundraising.

“Donors leave more than a monetary contribution—oftentimes, they leave us with their thoughts, experiences, and hopes for what mental health will look like in our society. Everyone from fellow students who ask how to get involved, to former and current practitioners who share both grim and hopeful stories in the workplace, have stopped and allowed for genuine interactions that are crucial in our fight to de-stigmatize conversations around mental health. While there are many battles left to have around mental health, there are so many people committed to this fight.”

One of the tactics in the fight, noted Chelsea Kiely, CMM vice president for events and co-chair of Cornell’s 2018 Mental Health Awareness Week, is getting mental health out in the open.

“The turnout for ‘Cupcake a Cornellian’ was incredible, and was so much fun all around,” she said, adding: “I especially enjoyed cupcaking Matt Jirsa, the co-president of Cornell Minds Matter.”

This Thanksgiving, The Sophie Fund thanks our community’s student mental health champions.

 

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Winnie Ho, cupcaked

 

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Matt Jirsa, after a colorful cupcaking

 

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Winnie Ho and Matt Jirsa, survivors of “Cupcake a Cornellian”

 

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Photos courtesy of Winnie Ho and Matt Jirsa

Send Silence Packing @ Ithaca College

Backpacks were scattered all over Ithaca College’s Emerson Suites on Monday. No, this high-traffic space wasn’t a convenient dumping ground for students taking mid-terms or heading to the cafeteria for a meal. The backpacks were a powerful exhibition called “Send Silence Packing,” a suicide prevention initiative traveling to American college campuses. The 1,100 backpacks represent the average number of college students who die by suicide every year.

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“Send Silence Packing” is a project of Active Minds, a national organization promoting student mental health through branch chapters at colleges around the county. Ithaca College’s chapter, led by co-presidents Zoe Howland and Mikaela Vojnik, hosted Monday’s exhibition in Emerson Suites.

The display is immersive and thought provoking. Each backpack includes a personal story or a quote from someone who has lost a loved to suicide. “I feel like the visual display really invokes a certain feeling that just talking about it doesn’t necessarily do,” Howland said.

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“There were a lot of people who came through on the way to their classes and were really intrigued with all the stories that were on the backpacks,” said Active Minds member Kristin Butler. She said that the event was an opportunity for “continuing the conversation on campus, which is great.”

Junior anthropology major Paige Twinning commented: “Powerful and important. The visual representation and personal profiles of individuals really made an impact.”

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“Send Silence Packing,” which has visited almost 200 campuses and reached nearly a million people, is intended to generate discussions about suicide and provide information about suicide prevention resources.

Ithaca College’s day-long event, sponsored in part by The Sophie Fund, began at 7:30 a.m. and included an evening Speak Your Mind panel discussion on suicide prevention moderated by Active Minds member Kelly Madden. Participating in the panel were representatives from key local mental health organizations, including the Suicide Prevention and Crisis Service, Mental Health Association in Tompkins County, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Finger Lakes, and the Advocacy Center. Said Kaylee McGillicuddy, a sophomore psychology major: “It’s just nice to know there are people who care.”

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Based on surveys, the Active Minds national organization reports that most people attending the “Send Silence Packing” installation are left wanting to know more about mental health, and 95 percent of attendees rate the experience as powerful.

Active Minds has chapters or other operations on more than 600 college campuses across the country. In June, a study of Active Minds published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry reported that student peer organizations’ activities can improve college student mental health attitudes and perceived knowledge and significantly increase helping behaviors.

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The Fall 2015 National College Health Assessment, in a survey of 19,861 students at more than 40 American schools, reported that 35.3 percent “felt so depressed that it was difficult to function.”

According to the 2017 annual report of the Center for Collegiate Mental Health, data collected from 147 college counseling centers showed that 34.2 percent of 161,014 college students seeking counseling in the 2016–17 academic year had “seriously considered attempting suicide.” The rate increased for the seventh year in a row, up from 24 percent in the 2010-11 academic year. The data also showed that 10 percent of the students seeking counseling had actually made a suicide attempt.

—By Margaret McKinnis

Margaret McKinnis, an intern at The Sophie Fund, is a junior at Ithaca College majoring in Writing and minoring in English and Honors. She is a nonfiction editor at Stillwater, a student literary magazine, and an assistant director of the New Voices Literary Festival.

[If you or someone you know feels the need to speak with a mental health professional, you can contact the Crisisline (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) at 1-800-273-8255 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.]

Cupcake Joy, 2018 Edition

Enjoy a photo gallery from the 3rd Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest organized by The Sophie Fund in the Ithaca Commons on October 13, 2018.

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Tough competition, true temptation!

 

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The Grand Prize Winner: “Strawberry Surprise Cupcakes” with a cored whole strawberry filled with salted butterscotch, topped by a brown sugar cream cheese frosting, decorated with a chocolate fan, sliced strawberry, mint leaves, and a mini chocolate strawberry macaron.

 

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Grand Prize Winner Zoe Dubrow enters her cupcakes at the registration desk

 

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Zoe Dubrow receives the Grand Prize Award from Debbie Lazinski of GreenStar Natural Foods Market ($250 GreenStar gift certificate)

 

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Natalie McCaskill-Myers’s pumpkin apple spice cupcakes with black cat decorations

 

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Rhonda Williamsee’s mint chocolate “cocoa coma” cupcakes

 

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Ella Kain’s lemon cupcakes with buttercream frosting

 

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Mary Sever-Schoonmaker “If You Like Pina Colada” cupcakes

 

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Kyra O’Toole’s Youth Award-winning chocolate cheesecake cupcakes with an Oreo crust

 

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Aušra Milano’s amaretto chocolate cupcakes decorated with a flower arrangement

 

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Contest producer Mickie Quinn confers with student volunteer from Cornell University

 

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All in the family

 

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Handle with care!

 

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Let the judging begin!

 

finalists

Drum roll, please! The Finalists!

 

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VIP Judge: Yuko Jingu of Akemi Food

 

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VIP Judge: Melissa Kenny of Sweet Melissa’s Ice Cream Shop

 

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VIP Judge: Daleila Norman of GreenStar Natural Foods Market

 

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VIP Judge: Kathleen Sherman Morrow of Felicia’s Atomic Brewhouse and Bakery

 

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Kitana Scofflaw of The House of Merlot

 

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Sgt. Cupcake Rob Natoli

 

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SingTrece & Kenneth McLaurin sing their Ithaca rendition of “New York, New York”

 

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Nellia Mattson performs with her ukulele

 

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Volunteers from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Central New York Chapter

 

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Volunteers from Cornell University’s Alpha Phi Omega Gamma Chapter

 

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Volunteers from Cornell Minds Matter

 

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Matthew Jirsa, co-president of Cornell Minds Matter

 

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Winnie Ho, president of Cornell University’s Alpha Phi Omega Gamma Chapter

 

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Charles Niven of the Mental Health Association in Tompkins County

Ithaca Cupcakes 2018: Special Awards

Contestants in the 3rd Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest on Saturday offered up some gorgeous and tasty entries—congratulations to these winners of Special Awards!

Most Masterful Musical Melody Award

Natalie McCaskill-Myers

Most Creatively Crafty Cupcake

Sally Brenner

Most Fabulously Floral Cupcake

Aušra Milano

Most Awesome Autumn

Robyn Schmitt

Most Magnificent Marvelous Moose Masterpiece

Claire Litwin

Most Sensationally Cinnamony Cupcake

Isabella Jones and Navia Marshall

Most Must Eat the Whole Chocolatey-Minty Thing Award

Rhonda Williamsee

The Everything Fun about Fall Cupcake

Sean Vickroy

Most Caramel Crave-Quenching Confection

Alana Craib

Chilliest Coconut Cake Confection

Matilde Portnoy

Best Cupcake to Take on the Trail

Ella Corson

Best Campfire Cupcake

Maggie Chutter

Most Likely to Make the Judges Go Coco for Coconut Award

Cierra Howard

Best Flavorful Fall Frosting

Jessara Thomas

Most Luxuriously Luscious Lavender Cupcake

Oluademi James-Daniel

Best Birthday cupCake

Ella Kain

Pretty in Pink Award

Ibtisaam Ahmed

Novel Neopolitan

Jenna Kain

Harvest Cupcake

Lianna White

Chocolate Chili

Sadie Hays

Best Carrot Top

Sul Jordan

Most Luscious Lemon

Talon Jordan

Tastiest Toastiest Pumpkin

Cristin McLaughin and Searra Lindhurst

Ultimate Chocolate Tower

Sonia and Ella Carr

Classic Superstar

Matt Jirsa for Cornell Minds Matter

 

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Natalie McCaskill-Myers’s entry:  Pumpkin apple spice cupcakes with cream cheese cardamom frosting, decorated with violins, soccer balls… and black cats representing Sophie’s cat Bagel and Natalie’s cat Curry Burger.

 

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Sally Brenner’s entry: Chocolate cupcakes with Key lime and kiwi-flavored frosting

 

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Aušra Milano’s entry: Amaretto chocolate cupcakes decorated with a flower arrangement

 

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Robyn Schmitt’s entry: Cinnamon and apple cupcakes

 

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Claire Litwin’s entry: Passion fruit curd, passion fruit mousse, and chocolate mousse in a joconde sponge cake, decorated with moose antlers in homage to the mousse layers

 

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Isabella Jones and Navia Marshall’s entry: Pumpkin spice cupcakes with maple frosting and a cinnamon stick

 

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Rhonda Williamsee’s entry: Mint chocolate “cocoa coma” cupcakes

 

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Sean Vickroy’s entry: Apple butter cupcakes with red winter frosting in the holiday spirit

 

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Alana Craib’s entry: Yellow cupcakes with maple frosting and candied walnuts

 

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Matilde Portnoy’s entry: “Tropicupcakes” with roasted almonds and cinnamon cream cheese frosting

 

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Ella Corson’s entry: Granola chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting

 

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Maggie Chutter’s entry: “Banana Boat Cupcakes,” with chocolate ganache core and meringue frosting

 

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Cierra Howard’s entry: “Macadamia Coconut Cupcakes,” frosted with Swiss meringue buttercream and topped with a coconut macaroon ball

 

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Jessara Thomas’s entry: Pumpkin and spice cupcakes with a pumpkin decoration on top

 

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Oluademi James-Daniel’s entry: Yellow lemon cupcake with a purple Earl Grey and lavender frosting

 

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Ella Kain’s entry: Lemon cupcakes with buttercream frosting

 

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Ibtisaam Ahmed: entry: “Rose Cupcakes, a Fusion of East and West.” American-style vanilla cupcakes with crème patisserie of European bakeries and delicate rose flavor common in North Africa, Middle East, Persia and the Indian subcontinent.

 

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Jenna Kain’s entry: Neapolitan cupcakes with strawberry buttercream frosting

 

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Lianna White’s entry: Gluten-free carrot, raisin, and walnut cupcakes with cashew buttercream frosting

 

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Sadie Hays’s entry: “Noche Buena,” a coffee and chili-infused New Mexican chocolate cupcake topped with whipped cream and a biscochito

 

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Sul Jordan’s entry: Pumpkin spice cupcakes with buttercream frosting

 

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Talon Jordan’s entry: Lemon cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting

 

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Cristin McLaughin and Searra Lindhurst’s entry: Vegan Pumpin S’more Vegan Cupcakes with marshmallow filling and chocolate frosting

 

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Sonia and Ella Carr’s entry: “The Chocolate Tower” triple-chocolate fudge cupcakes with strawberry-flavored fudge frosting

 

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Matt Jirsa for Cornell Minds Matter’s entry: Classic cupcakes with star-shaped sprinkles

Ithaca Cupcakes 2018: Honorable Mention Awards

There were masterpieces aplenty at the 3rd Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest in the Ithaca Commons on Saturday. Six contestants with their incredible entries made a valiant challenge and were presented with Honorable Mention Awards.

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Sophie Callister’s entry: Pumpkin spice cupcake with cream cheese spice frosting, and yellow sprinkles and a candied bee decoration.

The Honorable Mention awardees were presented with $20 gift certificates from Sweet Melissa’s Ice Cream Shop and $20 gift certificates from GreenStar Natural Foods Market.

Honorable Mention

Alexandra and Taylor Beauvais

Sophie Callister

Hannah and Cheryl Stephenson

Patti Meyers and Hudson

Tamarynde Cacciotti

Mary Sever-Schoonmaker

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Alexandra and Taylor Beauvais’s entry: Apple spice cake with caramel maple apple pie filling and topped with caramel maple cream cheese frosting and a chocolate New York State decoration.

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Hannah and Cheryl Stephenson’s entry: “A Perfect Cup of Joe Cupcakes,” with coffee, chocolate, and cream.

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Patti Meyers and Hudson’s entry: “Magic Unicorn Cone Cakes.” Lemon cupcakes baked in an edible ice cream cone with vanilla frosting, marshmallow ears and rainbow sprinkles.

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Tamarynde Cacciotti’s entry: Pecan pie cupcake, with pecan pie filling topped with a salted maple buttercream frosting, garnished with pie crust hearts.

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Mary Sever-Schoonmaker’s entry: “If You Like Pina Colada” cupcakes. Moist coconut cake filled with a homemade pineapple compote and topped with a fluffy coconut rum icing.