Ithaca’s Best Cupcakes 2018

Here are the top winners in the 3rd Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest organized by The Sophie Fund in the Ithaca Commons on October 13. (More winners will be posted soon!)


Zoe Dubrow (right) won the Grand Prize



Zoe Dubrow’s “Strawberry Surprise Cupcakes” contained a cored whole strawberry filled with salted butterscotch. The concoctions were topped by a brown sugar cream cheese frosting, decorated with a chocolate fan, sliced strawberry, mint leaves, and a mini chocolate strawberry macaron.

1st Prize

$250 gift certificate for GreenStar Natural Foods Market

Zoe Dubrow


Version 2

Jennifer Dobmeier’s “Key Lime Pie Cupcake” is the Second Prize winner in the 3rd Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest! The Key lime-scented vanilla cake with a lime curd filling was topped with a Key lime buttercream frosting.

2nd Prize

La Tourelle Hotel, Bistro, and Spa gift certificate (one night stay, Bistro breakfast, August Moon Spa)

Jennifer Dobmeier



Erin Morris won the Third Prize in the 3rd Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest with German chocolate cupcakes topped by a swirl of pink icing made from homemade jam using local farmer’s market strawberries.

3rd Prize

$50 gift certificate for GreenStar Natural Foods Market

Erin Morris



Kyra O’Toole won the Youth Award for 18s & Under. She overcame tough competition with a set of chocolate cheesecake cupcakes, with an Oreo crust, chocolate cream filling, chocolate cream frosting.

Youth Award

$100 gift certificate from the Downtown Ithaca Alliance (redeemable at more than 100 local businesses)

Kyra O’Toole


Snapshot of all the Winners

1st Place (Grand Prize)

Zoe Dubrow

2nd Place

Jennifer Dobmeier

3rd Place

Erin Morris

Youth Award

Krya O’Toole


Honorable Mention

Alexandra and Taylor Beauvais

Sophie Callister

Hannah and Cheryl Stephenson

Patti Meyers and Hudson

Tamarynde Cacciotti

Mary Sever-Schoonmaker


Special Awards

Natalie McCaskill-Myers

Sally and Rebecca Brenner

Aušra Milano

Robyn Schmitt

Claire Litwin

Isabella Jones and Navia Marshall

Ali Strongwater

Rhonda Williamee

Sean Vickroy

Alana Craib

Matilde Portnoy

Ella Corson

Maggie Chutter

Cierra Howard

Jessara Thomas

Oluademi James-Daniel

Ella Kain

Ibtisaam Ahmed

Jenna Kain

Lianna White

Sadie Hays

Sul Jordan

Talon Jordan

Cristin McLaughlin and Searra Lindhurst

Sonia and Ella Carr

Matt Jirsa for Cornell Minds Matter


Now My Heart is Full

Laura June spent nearly a decade in journalism before she ever considered writing a book of her own. Even then, she imagined she would dive into fiction writing if she got the urge to publish. However, giving birth to a daughter changed everything. The desire grew to write about what was present in her own life—entering motherhood with her newborn. The result: Now My Heart is Full: A Memoir, published by Penguin Books.


“I found that this kind of writing resonated with people, not because I was an expert in parenting, but because I was the opposite of it,” June said during her talk at the “Readings on Mental Health” series at Buffalo Street Books on October 7.

Initially, June began writing essays about her daughter, Zelda, as well some journalistic pieces that covered maternity leave and healthcare. These ventures led to a gig with New York magazine, an ideal platform for developing material for a book on motherhood.

Before submitting a book proposal, June realized her own mother remained “the elephant in the room.” June’s mom had died at age 52, and had been an alcoholic for as long as June could remember. She decided that in order to write a book about motherhood, she needed to include her relationship to her own mother, and the memoir began to settle on the question, “How would I describe my mother to my daughter?” While June’s memoir is often explained as a story about mothers, June understands it to be that and more. It encompasses genealogy and alcoholism/addiction as well as a compelling story about how these elements shape mother-daughter relations.

June read an excerpt of her work, which centered on her initial conception of her relationship with her mother:

“This dissonance — that my sober mother loved me very much, that she braided my hair and sang to me, bought me little matching jumpers and sock sets, and made sure I was inoculated and had a lunch packed with little love notes in pen on the napkin tucked inside, but then forgot to even bother picking me up occasionally, with barely a nod in my direction in apology after the fact — this dissonance that I began to experience, where suddenly I wasn’t first on her list but now seemed last, was quite confusing. I was too confused to take it personally. I felt nervous, and it was the nervousness that I would also keep for years to come.”

As this small section indicates, June’s work integrates nuanced emotion and complexity to tell a rich and poignant story about motherhood and alcoholism.

In a Q&A session after her reading, a woman asked when June intended to share this story with her daughter, who is now 4 years old. The book remains on the shelf for now, but June suspects when the time is right, the book will find its way into her daughter’s hands.

—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.

“Readings on Mental Health” is presented by the Mental Health Association in Tompkins County, hosted by Buffalo Street Books, and sponsored by The Sophie Fund.

Dash! Splash! It’s Newfield’s Color Run!

The grounds of Newfield High School were ablaze in festive shades of pink, blue, and orange on Saturday as some 250 students, parents, and community members took part in the school’s annual spring Color Run.


Under a brilliant sun and cloudless sky, everyone from senior citizens to toddlers in strollers to families with pets in tow trekked along their choice of routes—the standard five-kilometer course, one-mile course, or the “family” half-mile track. At five stations along the way the joggers and walkers were doused with colored powder, sometimes to shrieks of delight. With dozens of volunteer organizers on hand to help, music, lawn games, and hot dogs rounded out the day’s fun.


The Color Run is sponsored by—and raises money for—a great student club at Newfield High School, Sources of Strength (SOS). This is part of a national peer-led suicide prevention program, originally developed in North Dakota in 1998, that promotes hope, help, strength, and connections, and provides support to struggling students.


Newfield High School heard about Sources of Strength six years ago, and affiliated researchers and trainers at the University of Rochester offered two years of support and a bit of funding to help pilot the program in some Tompkins County schools.

What made this program so appealing to us at Newfield was the unique focus of having peer leaders deliver powerfully positive, strength-driven messages. The University of Rochester researchers had already collected solid data from several schools in North America proving the effectiveness of Sources of Strength.


As Sources of Strength explains it:

“A best practice youth suicide prevention project designed to harness the power of peer social networks to change unhealthy norms and culture, ultimately preventing suicide, bullying, and substance abuse. The mission of Sources of Strength is to prevent suicide by increasing help seeking behaviors and promoting connections between peers and caring adults. Sources of Strength moves beyond a singular focus on risk factors by utilizing an upstream approach for youth suicide prevention. This upstream model strengthens multiple sources of support (protective factors) around young individuals so that when times get hard they have strengths to rely on.”

Each fall, the club’s co-advisors—myself and high school counselor Rick Pawlewicz—take our group of diverse peer leaders through a half-day training to learn about the mission and key messages of Sources Of Strength.

In becoming key “connectors” in their school, the peer leaders focus on identifying and utilizing eight different strengths in our lives: positive friends, healthy activities, family support, mentors, spirituality, generosity, medical access, and mental health. They share stories at weekly SOS meetings about struggles, stressors, and how they use personal sources of strength to get through tough times. Helping to break the silence around mental health, peer leaders actively seek out others to connect them with resources and to their own sources of strength. They continually send the message that it’s okay to talk about tough times, and that it’s essential to tap into our personal strengths and reach out for help.


SOS peer leaders at Newfield High have created, facilitated, and engaged in countless messaging activities inside our school and in the wider community. The activities include simple, visual messages like posters, cards, videos, and social media posts; trivia games during all lunch periods; Sources of Strength Weeks; pep rallies; and the annual Extravaganzas—nights of fun on campus with games, music, art, and food. The peer leaders give community presentations on their activities, to the Newfield Central School District Board of Education and the Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES). And, of course, hundreds of community members come out for the annual Color Run.






We are proud of Newfield High School’s peer leaders and the mentors (teachers, staff, administrators, coaches, etc.) who support their efforts to promote hope, help, strength, and connections throughout every corner of our community. Our goal is that every student knows that they are not alone, and there is always help and support available.

—By Jamie McCaffrey

Jamie McCaffrey, LCSW is a social worker in the Newfield Central School District

Photos courtesy Jamie McCaffrey


How To Get Help for Suicidal Thoughts

The suicide deaths of celebrity chef and journalist Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade this week are sobering reminders that thoughts of suicide can afflict many of us. Amid these tragedies—news of which itself can trigger suicidal impulses in some people—it is vital to know how to get help.


The Jed Foundation provides the following valuable information—please check out these links if you are having thoughts of suicide, or know someone who may be at risk:

I’m having thoughts of suicide

Someone I know may be at risk of suicide

From the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Know the risk factors and warning signs for suicide

For immediate help:

If you are thinking about harming yourself, please get help now:

  • Call 911
  • Go to the nearest emergency room
  • Text “START” to 741-741 or Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Go to your local health care provider or campus counseling service (during business hours) or campus security

If you are having thoughts of self-harm, know that you don’t have to deal with your difficult thoughts and feelings alone. There are resources out there to help you – if you feel like the people you know can’t handle your problems or if you feel like you are beyond being helped or you don’t want to tell your problems to people you know, there are many other ways to get help, support and guidance from people who are available to you 24/7. Counselors at hotlines, crisis centers, or emergency rooms are able to assist you during your worst hours – they will not judge you or force you to do something that will make things worse.  They are there to listen, support, understand and help.

If you are having thoughts about suicide, it probably means that your pain is unbearable and that you feel like the only way to solve your problems is to harm yourself. It is likely that you feel hopeless, alone and beyond help. At this very low point in your life, it is really important to know that it all can get better and the pain can ease if you get help. If you are able to give yourself a chance, and give it time, you can get to a better place in your life and you will be able to figure out ways to cope with your problems.

If you’re feeling suicidal and are not sure if you can stay safe, please call 911 or a hotline, call campus police/security, or go to the emergency department at the nearest hospital. There are many ways to get help right away.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, but you aren’t immediately thinking of hurting yourself and don’t have a plan, consider doing the following:

  • Reach out to someone you feel you can trust (a friend or family member)

It might help you feel less alone and overwhelmed if you talk about your feelings. Remember, now is not the time to worry about hurting their feelings – if it seems like a good friend or family member doesn’t “get it,” move on to someone else who can listen in a way that helps you and give you support in a way that is useful.

  • Make an appointment at the campus counseling center or with a health care provider

Ask to be seen as soon as possible even if you feel your situation is not an emergency. If they question your request for an urgent appointment, tell them you are having thoughts of harming yourself. When you have thoughts of suicide, it is best not to put off talking about your struggles – this is a very vulnerable time for you and the sooner you find support and guidance, the better.

  • Connect to an academic advisor or a religious/faith counselor

Most faith and academic professionals have access to resources to get you help.

  • Call a crisis hotline to talk with someone who has experience with these issues and can offer you support and connect you to resources

Text “START” to 741-741 or call (800) 273-TALK (8255)

Remember: With time and support, it can get better; remember that even if suicidal thoughts and impulses come and go (or even go away), they signal a serious problem and getting help is the best way to get better and heal.

Source: The Jed Foundation

Time to Reflect

Clark Atrium was abuzz. The chatter of students fostering true connections created a steady hum throughout the building. I cannot adequately describe how excited I was during the Cornell chapter of The Reflect Organization’s final meeting of the fall semester in December. We had over 170 students in attendance, eating dinner together and openly discussing their lives in peer-to-peer groups that covered topics from school to stress to relationships and more.


Reflect at Cornell Co-President Jack Burger (’19) and Treasurer Don Moore (’20) on the Arts Quad

This was double the number of students who showed up for our first meeting in October. But the most rewarding part was the amazing feedback. One of my friends who came on a whim found me as I was cleaning up. “I never thought I’d like this sort of thing,” Darren told me. “But now that I’ve done it, I want to keep coming.” He later asked how he could get even more involved in supporting college students’ mental health through a leadership position with Reflect at Cornell. Now that is the kind of response that really gets me going.

Reflect is a national nonprofit dedicated to improving the mental health of students and de-stigmatizing mental health care. Jared Fenton began Reflect as an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania in 2015 following the suicide of his Penn classmate, Madison Holleran. Maddie Feldman and I launched Reflect at Cornell, and became its first co-presidents, at the start of the 2017–18 academic year after seeing how mental health issues were plaguing our campus.

Students at Cornell are known to exhibit Duck Syndrome—you act like everything is alright even though things are tumultuous beneath the surface, like a duck gliding smoothly across the water while actually paddling furiously below. With the heavy demand for appointments at Cornell Health’s Counseling & Psychological Services, and the long wait times involved, it becomes very hard for students to find a place on campus where they feel they can be their true selves. Despite outward appearances, loneliness abounds. The American College Health Association says that more than 60 percent of college students report feeling “very isolated.”

At Reflect, we’re determined to do something about this. We provide students with an opportunity to take off their social media masks and share what’s really going on in their lives. By making it cool to attend a Reflect dinner—and we dish up some pretty tasty pizza (and other meals, depending on the month)—we are striving to facilitate true connections that relieve the isolation.

The response on campus has been inspiring. Hundreds of students have embraced Reflect’s message of openness, honesty, and mutual support. At our dinners, students are engaging in real conversations, and exchanging contact information to meet up later and continue them. Cornell media has taken note of the movement, featuring Reflect at Cornell in the Cornell Daily Sun, Slope Media, and the Dyson Business Feed.

It’s encouraging to see how Reflect has grown from a few dozen Penn students just three years ago to enriching the lives of students at a growing number of other universities across the country. That’s empowering. Here at Cornell, we’re down for another semester and more of making connections, having open conversations, and working on our mental health together. And we’ll continue to serve some pretty good pizza, too!

—By Jack Burger

Jack Burger (’19) is co-president of Reflect at Cornell

Next Reflect at Cornell meeting: 5 p.m., Monday, February 5, Clark Atrium of the Physical Sciences Building.