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

Appreciation for the Cupcake Judges!

The Sophie Fund extends its heartfelt appreciation to the finalist judges of the 8th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest. They not only volunteered to serve, they also baked up some treats of their own—350 treats, count ‘em!—to pass out to contestants and passersby. Thank you Yuko Jingu of Akemi Food; Ashley Case of Case Sera Sera; Racquel Riccardi of the Sinfully Delicious Baking Co.; Melissa Kenny of Sweet Melissa’s Ice Cream Shop; and Via Carpenter of Via’s Cookies.

Racquel Riccardi, Ashley Case, Melissa Kenny, Yuko Jingu, and Via Carpenter

Sweet Melissa’s Ice Cream Shop

Via’s Cookies

Case Sera Sera

Sinfully Delicious Baking Co.

Cupcake Joy, 2023 Edition

Explore a photo gallery from the 8th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest, held in the Commons on October 14, 2023.

Bees Rule! Hudson & Gamay arriving with their masterpiece!

Alecia Sundsmo and fellow bakers receive 2nd Place award

Contest Emcee Amber Robson

Finalist judges brought cookies to give away

Free treats from Via’s Cookies, Case Sera Sera, Sweet Melissa’s Ice Cream Shop, and Sinfully Delicious Baking Co.

Trays of cupcakes awaiting the judges

The music of singer songwriter Rachel Beverly

Setting up at the Bernie Milton Pavilion

Kathryn Holloway entering her “Brunch Means a Waffle Lot!” cupcakes

Live, from the Ithaca Commons!

Answer: It means a lot!

And there’s no charge

The beats of Joe Gibson & Dan Collins

DJ Eric Dixon on the media deck

Contestant No. 1: Ana Beltz registering her “Tea in the Garden” cupcakes

Lucy Jiang takes home the 3rd Place award for her “Happy Capybara” cupcakes

Producer Cara Nichols of CRN Events, LLC

Drum roll, please!

SingTrece and Kenneth McLaurin, singing notes and slinging jokes

Statement from The Sophie Fund

Friends of The Sophie Fund have called to our attention that a political rally held at the Bernie Milton Pavilion in the Ithaca Commons on Sunday October 15 featured a speaker expressing exhilaration over the recent atrocities against Israeli citizens. Some viral images from the rally showed the banner of The Sophie Fund affixed across the Pavilion. We would like to make it clear that this banner was for our annual cupcake contest event held the day before, on Saturday October 14. The banner, which had nothing to do with the political rally, was erected on Friday and is due to be taken down this week when workers return and remove it. The Sophie Fund is a nonprofit community mental health advocacy organization in Tompkins County, NY that promotes youth well-being, suicide prevention, anti-bullying, sexual assault prevention, empathy, and kindness, and celebrates the joys of life. We are not a political organization and there was no political content in our cupcake contest, which is held at the Bernie Milton Pavilion every October. Supporting and attending our event on Saturday were nine local mental health organizations and five Cornell University student organizations. The contest raised funds for an Ithaca mental health clinic serving families and children. We were not informed that a political rally would take place at the Pavilion on the following day and deeply regret any mistaken association with it due to the unrelated juxtaposition of the banner. The Sophie Fund condemns the murder of Israeli civilians as well as the repugnant remarks made at the Sunday rally.

Scene from 8th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest, October 14, 2023

Ithaca Cupcakes 2023: Special Awards

Contestants in the 8th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest on October 14 brought forth their chefs-d’œuvre—so many masterpieces for the judges to view and taste. Congratulations to these winners of Special Awards!

Fairy’s Favorite Award

Ana Beltz

Best Farm to Table Award

Aušra Milano

Profound Pastry Award

Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service

Most Dramatic Award

Tabitha Gray

Snakes on a Plate Award

Rebecca Gray

Dessert for Breakfast Award

Kathryn Holloway

Best Special Effects Award

Anisa Pepinsky

Queen Bee Award

Hudson & Gamay

Most Savory Award

Nilka Joaquin

Most Mouthwatering Award

Isabel Perkins

Funkiest Fungi

Lily Lowder

Campfire Paradise Award

Ashley Rorick

Monkey Madness Award

Jessica Cullen

Ithaca Is Icing Award

Heather Lee

Perfect Presentation Award

Mary Sever-Schoonmaker

Literary Genius of Cupcakes Award

Siena Drumluk

Absolutely Artistic Award

Michael Herceg

Big Top Award

Chiara Miller-Out

The Whole Package Award

Eleni Casseri

Ana Beltz’s entry: “Tea in the Garden” Earl Grey-infused, gluten-free cupcakes with a honey glaze and lavender buttercream frosting.

Aušra Milano’s entry: “Indian Creek Farms Orchard” blackberry cupcakes with browned butter and cream cheese frosting.

Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service’s entry: “You Matter” banana cupcakes with browned butter and cream cheese frosting.

Tabitha Gray’s entry: French vanilla and grapefruit soda cupcakes with raspberry filling and green buttercream frosting inspired by the Little Shop of Horrors.

Rebecca Gray’s entry: German chocolate cupcakes with snake-shaped apricot center and pecan coconut frosting.

Kathryn Holloway’s entry: “Brunch Means a Waffle Lot!” gluten-free chocolate cupcakes with homemade chocolate hazelnut filling topped with white chocolate ganache frosting, a mini chocolate chip waffle, and a strawberry half.

Anisa Pepinsky’s entry: “Death by Red Velvet” cupcakes with cream cheese frosting topped with Halloween decorations.

Gamay and Hudson’s entry: “Bees Rule” vanilla honey cupcakes with bee-themed yellow and black striped frosting.

Nilka Joaquin’s entry: Warm, crisp, autumn comfort cupcakes with the sweetness of maple and classic pumpkin and the savory taste of bacon and salted caramel crowned with mini pretzels.

Isabel Perkins’s entry: Köstliche Schokolade German chocolate cupcakes topped with coconut-pecan frosting drawn from a family baking tradition passed from generation to generation.

Lily Lowder’s entry: Forest-inspired carrot cupcakes loaded with nuts, coconut, and pineapple, topped with a hedgehog and mushrooms.

Ashley Rorick’s entry: “S’mores Cupcakes” with sweet marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate cake.

Jessica Cullen’s entry: “Ithaca Is Bananas” spiced banana cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and walnuts inspired by the Moosewood restaurant desserts.

Heather Lee’s entry: “Bee Kind” chocolate cupcakes swirled with marshmallows and chocolate chip cookie center, decorated as flowers with buttercream frosting accented with bees.

Mary Sever-Schoonmaker’s entry: “Orange You Glad I Baked” chocolate mayonnaise cakes with orange curd topped with chocolate meringue buttercream frosting.

Siena Drumluk’s entry: “My Magical Dream” blueberry cupcakes with lemon cream cheese frosting inspired by the Percy Jackson books featuring the powers of a teenage demigod.

Michael Herceg’s entry: “Grandmother’s Neapolitan” family-tradition chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with strawberry cream frosting.

Chiara Miller-Out’s entry: “Circus Sundae” cupcakes with marble cake fudge filling and Chantilly cream clown decoration and a big ol’ maraschino cherry nose.

Eleni Casseri’s entry: “London Fog” Earl Grey, vanilla, and honey cakes topped with lavender and vanilla frosting, in honor of Yiannis.