Enter the 8th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest!

Ithaca bakers, what’s your flavor this year? Tiramisu? Green tea? Earl Grey? Honey maple? Pumpkin spice? Vanilla bean? Surprise us! The judges are waiting for your cupcakes!

The 8th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest will take place on Saturday October 14 at the Bernie Milton Pavilion in the Ithaca Commons.

Click here for all the information on contest procedures and rules, and the Contest Registration Form. (You can register online, or download a Contest Registration Form and bring it to the contest venue with your cupcakes).

Contestants of all ages are welcome and will be eligible for dozens of prizes including a Grand Prize valued at $250 and a Youth Award valued at $100. Truly, everyone is a winner! (Open to amateur bakers only.)

Contestants are asked to submit trays of six cupcakes, their recipes, and a brief story about their creations.

The story could be about a person, place, or thing that inspired the recipe and decoration. Or what techniques you favored. Or the joy you had baking them. Was there a challenge you had to overcome in making your cupcake dream a reality? Tell us!

Contest submissions are received from 10 a.m.–12 Noon on Saturday October 14 at the Bernie Milton Pavilion. The entries will then be judged by professionals from Ithaca’s bakeries and restaurants. Judging is based on cupcake taste, decoration, and originality. Winners will be announced at an Awards Ceremony at 3 p.m.

Prizes include 1st Place, 2nd Place, 3rd Place, and Honorable Mention Awards, as well as the Youth Award for teens and pre-teens.

The 8th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest is sponsored by Visions Federal Credit Union, Cayuga Health, and Maguire.

The contest is organized every year by The Sophie Fund, established in 2016 in memory of Cornell University art student Sophie Hack MacLeod to support mental health initiatives aiding young people.

Sophie’s passion for baking cupcakes inspired the launch of the first Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest in 2016. 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.

A Mental Health Champion, Always on the Front Lines

Micaela Corazón, who has spent a quarter century providing mental health support for people in the Ithaca area, is the Outreach Center coordinator at the Mental Health Association in Tompkins County (MHA).

Micaela Corazón at the Outreach Center in Ithaca

Opened in September 2022, the center is a multi-purpose facility providing space for classes, training, and meetings. Located on the first floor of Center Ithaca in the Ithaca Commons, it is home to MHA’s Social Drop-In Program that offers walk-in peer counseling for non-crisis situations and provides a relaxing setting for socializing and building connections.

“A lot of people who join us at the Outreach Center feel safe knowing they’re guaranteed help if they decide to seek it,” Corazón explained. “They don’t feel threatened like they do in some mental health treatment facilities. Instead, they’re able to take things at their own pace.”

Those who drop by the center are treated as guests, Corazón said, adding: “They enter our building and get support from brave people with real lived experiences with no judgement. It’s all about offering them what they need in a safe, comfortable environment.”

Prior to the Mental Health Association, which provides support, advocacy, and services for mental health recovery and prevention of mental illness, Corazón worked at AIDSWORK, the Southern Tier AIDS Program, and most recently, at Ithaca’s Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service.

But her life’s calling began with transformative experiences far from the shores of Cayuga Lake, after she moved from New York City to the West Coast in 1978 to attend San Francisco State University.

Just months after settling in the Bay Area, Corazón was shaken by the assassination of Harvey Milk, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the first openly gay man elected to public office in California. Milk was a leader in the LGBTQ+ community; Corazón herself was part of that community and knew Milk personally.

Corazón began working at a health clinic as San Francisco became a focal point in the emergence of HIV/AIDS, then commonly transmitted through gay sex or sharing drug-injection needles. She worked with many patients sick from the disease and watched male friends in the city fall ill and die.

Corazón felt that she was being called to help. She joined the Shanti Project, which had been founded in 1974 to provide emotional and practical support to people with life-threatening illnesses.

Her assignment was providing peer crisis and grief counseling to HIV/AIDS patients and their loved ones in Ward 5A at San Francisco General Hospital, the first in the U.S. with beds dedicated for this illness. As a native Spanish speaker, she worked with many Latinx families.

Looking back, Corazón said, her experience in Ward 5A deeply informed her own spiritual beliefs and understanding about the concepts of life and death. “Ward 5A was a model for the world on how to offer caring and safe support to people with AIDS,” she said.

The soaring cost of living in the Bay Area prompted Corazón to continue her journey elsewhere. She accepted a post as interim director of AIDSWORK: HIV Support and Information for Tompkins County, formed in 1985 to mobilize a countywide response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In 2003, AIDSWORK merged with the Southern Tier AIDS Program, where she worked on the development of the first rural syringe exchange program in New York State.

In 2004, Corazón’s focus shifted to suicide prevention after a dear friend with HIV/AIDS took their own life.

“It was not the first time I had experienced this,” she recalled. “My cousin took his life when I was 17 years old and he was 27 years old. I saw how his suicide destroyed my uncle and aunt.”

Corazón initially joined the Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service (SPCS) as a volunteer counselor on the Crisisline. She would then spend 17 years as director of the Crisisline, which handles calls from people who are struggling. SPCS has been a regional call center for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which in 2022 became the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned through it all, it’s that we’re not separate from those who are struggling,” Corazón said. “People are no different just because they’re going through something difficult. They just need and deserve people to care about their safety. Selfless service is how I show up every day. It’s the least I could do.”

Josephine Gibson, MHA’s executive director, deeply respects Corazón’s decades of experience supporting vulnerable people, and the integrity and compassion she brings to that work.

“Mica exemplifies our mission of centering people’s experiences in the way she welcomes all who walk through our doors, meets people with the utmost compassion and respect, and uplifts the strengths she sees in all of our peer staff and participants,” Gibson said. “Mica takes the time to sit and listen to our guests, meeting them where they are, validate their unique experiences and understand their needs.”

Corazón got one of her first lessons in compassion at age 13. Knowing that she was queer and not having anyone else to talk to about it, she picked up a phone and called a helpline in New York City. She was connected to a counselor named Victor, a disabled veteran. He listened to her with respect and care, offering advice about staying true to herself through it all. For the next year, Corazón called back every Friday afternoon, speaking to Victor about her identity, looking for comfort in it.

She often finds herself thinking about Victor and wondering if she’s ever been a Victor for someone else. The answer should be pretty obvious to the legions of people in Tompkins County and beyond who have been at the receiving end of Corazón’s compassionate support.

—Lyndsey Honor

The Outreach Center is located in Center Ithaca, 171 East State Street, Suite 115. For information, call (607) 273 9250.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the Mental Health Association’s support groups and community education programs. To make a donation, CLICK HERE.

Lyndsey Honor, an intern at The Sophie Fund, is a senior at Ithaca College, majoring in Writing and minoring in Honors, French, and Theatre. She is the managing editor of the school’s Stillwater Magazine and has written for the Ithaca Times.

Better Together for Mental Health!

The sun shined and the crowds came to Stewart Park in Ithaca on May 13 for “Better Together for Mental Health,” an all-day festival to celebrate National Mental Health Month and raise awareness about support services in Tompkins County. Gratitude to Family & Children’s Service of Ithaca, Health and Unity for Greg, Jaydn McCune, Sandy True, Gloria Coicou, Don Manuel Presents, and all the other organizers and supporters of this important community event.

Michelle and Kayla Eells of Health and Unity for Greg

Attending the event in Stewart Park, Mayor Laura Lewis proclaimed May 2023 as “Mental Health Awareness Month” in the City of Ithaca “to increase public understanding of the importance of mental health and to promote identification and treatment of mental illness.”

“Every citizen and community can make a difference in helping end the silence and stigma that for too long has surrounded mental illness and discouraged people from getting help,” Lewis added. “Public education and physical activities such as today’s can encourage mental health and help improve the lives if individuals and families affected by mental illness.”

Nate the Great

Scuba Jerry

Evo Evolution

NEO Project

Crossroads the Clown

GIAC Jumpers

Family & Children’s Service of Ithaca

Alicia Kenaley of F&CS and Kari Burke of Ithaca City School District

Open Doors

Stacy Ayres and Crystal Howser

Mental Health Association in Tompkins County

Olivia Duell of The Advocacy Center of Tompkins County

Cornell Health’s Julie Edwards and Catherine Thrasher-Carroll

Tompkins Families

The Sophie Fund

Mental Health Heroes Wall

“One Thing I Do to Feel Better”

Mayor Laura Lewis

Luna Inspired Street Food

On the Street Pita

Purity Ice Cream

Meg-a-Moo’s Ice Creeam

Thanks to all the Sponsors! Health and Unity for Greg, Johnson & Johnson Services, Sciarabba Walker & Co., The Sophie Fund, True Insurance, Kinney Drugs, Northwestern Mutual, and Warren Real Estate

May is for Mental Health!

Spring is here, and so is National Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s a great opportunity to reflect on your own well-being, and check in on how your loved ones and friends are doing. And it’s a chance to be part of a community that fights the stigma around mental illness and advances improvements in mental health care.

There’s a lot happening in the greater Ithaca community!

Better Together for Mental Health

On Saturday May 13, Mental health  stakeholders in Tompkins County are organizing an amazing event from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Stewart Park in Ithaca to celebrate mental health and spread awareness about mental health care.

Free activities for all ages will include guided nature walks, yoga, live music (featuring NEO Project), writing workshops, street performers (including Nate the Great), food (Luna Inspired Street Food and Purity Ice Cream) and more.

Organizers include: Racker, Family & Children’s Service of Ithaca, Advocacy Center of Tompkins County, Mental Health Association in Tompkins County, Story House Ithaca, Health and Unity for Greg, The Sophie Fund, Tompkins County Whole Health, Tompkins County Youth Services Department, Family Reading Partnership, Free Voice, Mama’s Comfort Camp, Tompkins Learning Partners, Community Foundation of Tompkins County, and Don Manuel Presents, YMCA of Ithaca and Tompkins County

Better Together for Mental Health is sponsored by Health and Unity for Greg, Johnson & Johnson, Sciarabba Walker & Co. LLP, The Sophie Fund, Tompkins Community Bank, True Insurance, Kinney Drugs, Northwestern Mutual, and Warren Real Estate.

Click here to learn more about Better Together for Mental Health.


On Saturday May 6, the Finger Lakes chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness hosts NAMIWalks from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Cass Park in Ithaca. According to the organizers, you can “run, walk, roller skate, or bike—bring the whole gang!”

The event is meant to raise awareness about mental health and raise funds for NAMI Finger Lakes. The organization provides support for families and friends of people diagnosed with major mental illnesses, educates about mental health conditions, and advocates for families and their loved ones.

Click here for more information, to register for NAMIWalks, or to donate.

Mental Health Month Toolkit

Mental Health America provides a wealth of information and materials to help individuals, organizations, and even businesses to participate in National Mental Health Awareness Month.

MHA’s 2023 toolkit includes information about how an individual’s environment impacts their mental health, suggestions for making changes to improve and maintain mental well-being, and how to seek help for mental health challenges.

The toolkit provides a mental health screening tool, tips on advocating for legislative changes, ways to hold community events, and ideas for how businesses can support employee mental health.

Click here to download the Mental Health America toolkit.

Tompkins County Mental Health Support and Crisis Services

Take the time to know what mental health support resources are available. Resources are helpful to those experiencing mental health disorders, as well as to their families and friends. If you are at all concerned about your mental health, or about a loved one or someone you know, stay educated about mental health and how to get help. You may even save a life.


Rebel with a Cause

When Charlotte Ghiorse sets out to support a cause, she doesn’t hold back.

The Ithaca-based multimedia artist, known for her filmmaking, photography, paintings, and fashion designs, has stepped up to raise funds for everything from the local library and the Epilepsy Foundation to the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. Recently, it was The Sophie Fund’s turn.

Ghiorse and her House of ChoCLeT clothing label put on “Collaboration: Invisible Light,” a fashion show held at the Martha Hamblin Ballroom of the Community School of Music and Arts.

The show featured 29 young people walking as models in a kaleidoscope of looks and colors. The garments included upcycled dresses, blazers, jean jackets, and other items, bearing silkscreened crowns, hearts, sports cars, and skulls and crossbones. Painted over the fabric were catchlines like “Love Bomb,” “No Hate,” Prom Queen,” “Slayer,” and “Être” (French for “to be”). Jewelry was provided by Draya Designs.

The October 1 event, in recognition of National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, raised monies for The Sophie Fund and the Ithaca Fine Arts Booster Group, which supports arts and music programming in the Ithaca City School District.

“I included words on my clothing to playfully empower the teenagers, and bolster self esteem,” explained Ghiorse, whose art over the years has given voice to social justice, environmental protection, ending poverty, women’s equality, and other causes.

The mother of three, once a homeless teen, who began selling her works on the streets of New York’s SoHo after graduating from art school, Ghiorse said she was determined that the show draw the connection between creativity and mental health.

“The arts literally saved my life,” she said. “And, personally, I know that suicide does not discriminate.”

Co-founder Susan Hack said The Sophie Fund was very grateful for Ghiorse’s support, and touched by the way the fashion show intentionally involved young people in celebrating art and strengthening awareness about mental health and suicide.

“Many young people struggle with their mental health, to one degree or another,” she said. “It’s so important for them to know that things like depression or anxiety are illnesses, not weaknesses, and that it’s okay to talk about it and seek help. And, of course, art brings us insight and joy.”