December 21, 2012 — The gymnasium at Unity Christian High School in Hudsonville (Mich.) was filled from one end to the other with cupcakes—most of them baked by students—in the name of raising awareness of mental health and teen suicide.
Students, along with some teachers and parents, baked 4,200 cupcakes during Unity’s Cupcake Wars, raising $4,000 for the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan.
The campaign grew out of adversity after a Unity student took her own life earlier this fall. With guidance from counselor Dan Sanders, eight students—all friends of the young woman—decided they wanted to make a difference.
“We don’t want anyone to go through what we had to go through,” said Megan Flipse, one of the organizers of Cupcake Wars, which they patterned after the reality TV show of the same name on the Food Network.
The campaign was announced during a chapel service; organizers used email and social media to spread the word.
Professional chefs and pastry bakers judged the cupcakes and awarded prizes for the top entries. Students then sold the cupcakes for $1 each or six for $5. All the proceeds were for the mental health foundation, student organizer Katelyn Levering said.
Some students say the campaign has helped them become more aware of what is going on in the lives of others. Student organizer Nana Temple said she now thinks about what she’s going to say before speaking.
“You might not think what you say has that much input on someone, but it’s that one word that can make or break someone’s day,” Temple said.
Sanders, who has been a counselor at Unity for 23 years, says one of the key messages of the campaign is that students in Christian schools are not immune from mental health issues. “If we can raise awareness of mental illness and [get the word out] that kids can get help, there’s the potential to reduce teen suicides,” he said.
Principal Jerry DeGroot is proud of how the students responded to the situation. “The true story in this is that their Christian spirit [showed through] how they reached out to others in our school who might be dealing with issues in their lives,” he said.