CANANDAIGUA — Kayleigh Woodard wonders if her mother would be alive today if the Community Resource Center had been around six years ago.
It was on Sept. 1, 2014, that Woodard’s mother Melissa, better known as Missy, took her own life. Her downward spiral, however, started four years earlier when two of her sisters died from cancer six weeks apart, although one had been given an optimistic prognosis.
“This was a tragedy for my mother and her family that she just couldn’t work through,” Kayleigh said. “We tried everything over the next several years, but there was nowhere for us to go.”
Kayleigh said one doctor suggested Missy be hospitalized, and she was given different medication over the years.
“By the time she died, she was a walking zombie,” Kayleigh said. “She really needed therapy. We just didn’t talk about it back then.”
With September being National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, Kayleigh is raising funds for the Canandaigua-based Community Support Center, a program of The Partnership for Ontario County.
The center offers numerous free services including a weekly support group, “Journey Through Loss,” solution-focused brief therapy with a licensed counselor, and wellness through activities such as art classes, kayaking, and yoga.
Kayleigh, who runs Woodard Rentals at Kershaw Park on Canandaigua Lake, has been donating her equipment and time for the center’s kayaking opportunities over the last couple of years.
“I don’t think enough people know about the center. I didn’t know about it until I saw a random Facebook post,” she said. “I have five brothers, and the youngest was a freshman in high school when mom died. He never got services like the Community Support Center has now.”
The GoFundMe fundraiser, called “Missy’s Mission,” is at gf.me/u/yu6gm9. As of Friday, it has raised more than $1,800 toward a goal of nearly $9,000.
Shawna Bonshak, the center’s program coordinator, said the center is growing and thriving even during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also offers services to families going through substance abuse issues.
“The CSC is built on a foundation of connection,” Bonshak said. “We are all recovering from something in life, and the CSC is providing much needed, free opportunities for connection to Ontario County residents. We believe in everyone having access to tools of wellness, especially those healing from addiction, trauma, and grief.”
Bonshak said the center, during the pandemic, has seen concerning trends in people with mental health concerns and needing assistance. Kayleigh, whose family is from Canandaigua, agreed.
“The center speaks leaps and bounds about what is going on with mental health, drug overdoses and addiction,” she said. “We dealt with Mom’s death on our own, but families in similar situations can get help. The center is a great resource and now is a good time to get the word out.”
"We are extremely grateful to Kayleigh for generously donating and collaborating for two years with the CSC to provide free kayaking on Canandaigua Lake through our wellness program," Bonshak said. "Families in our community are significantly affected by suicide and mental illness. By Kayleigh sharing her mother's story and fundraiser, it only increases awareness surrounding topics that can have stigmas attached."