CORNING - The sixth annual Michelle Shafer Benefit Bowling Tournament was held it two packed sessions Saturday at Crystal Lanes.

The event, started by local PBA bowler Ryan Shafer, supports depression and suicide awareness. Shafer’s wife Michelle took her own life in 2014.

What began as a scholarship tourney has evolved into an event to help battle the stigma that often comes with depression or suicide.

“As a scholarship tournament, I raised more than $39,000 for the kids,” Ryan Shafer said Saturday before the early afternoon session got under way. “Last year, we gave more than $5,000 to the iMatter Foundation and the Elmira Psychiatric Center.

“I wanted to transition away from the scholarship tournament because I wanted it to be more about attacking the stigma of suicide and depression. The best way to do that was to transition away from the scholarship, because I really couldn’t do both.”

Shafer looked at his own situation as the inspiration for the move.

“The key issue when my wife passed away was that when she got out of the behavioural science unit, we were left to our own devices,” he said. “We had to wait for outpatient care. It’s not like you get to see a psychiatrist right away. I was left on my own to try to take care of her and do the best for her - and I’m not capable of that.

“Nobody gave me any information as to who to ask for help or where to go - and in that respect I failed her.”

Starting with donations from last year’s event, Shafer is seeing results locally.

“What I wanted to do with this money, the Elmira Psych Center - and hopefully my niece Mary Wallace, who works there - has created a program where there’s information for people who have been released from that into the family’s care, where they can go for help,” Shafer said. “The booklet hasn’t been completly approved yet, but that’s where the money from last year was earmarked for. Maybe we can improve on it this year.”

Shafer also hopes that by getting more information out into the public’s hands will be beneficial, as well.

“Part of the money needs to go to get rid of the stigma with coming forward and asking for help - not being ashamed. That’s a big part, because if you’re ashamed and you don’t come forward to talk about it - you’ll never get help,” he said. “I know my wife was embarassed. She didn’t need to be. It’s just like any other sickness. So that’s where I think we can help.”

According to David Putney, the executive director of the Elmira Psychiatric Center, the efforts reach far beyond the Elmira area.

“The Elmira Psychiatric Center is often viewed as a building right there in Elmira, but we extend across 10-plus counties with all kinds of services,” Putney said. “We’re so honored and pleased to benefit from this on your behalf and in honor of Michelle.

“Having the language to talk about how we can reach out to someone for ourselves or someone else is important. We need to remember the successes because there’s help - because there’s hope.”

This year's event was won by a team from Syracuse consisting of Michelle Edick, Mark Macbain, Kime Osinski and Roseann Diflorio. Second place went to the team of Jim Orr, Tim Fermenic, Dave Krout and Jeff Krout.

The team of Cameron Kennedy, Michael Hoffman-Bellucci, Matthew Hoffman-Bellucci and Brody Amidon won the kids scholarship with a score of 2,897. Second place went to the team of Kylie Downing, Aven Bower, Ayden Tito and Brett Pike, who rolled a 2,837.