OLEAN — Thanks to funds raised for Swizzy’s Cause, 40 people with mental illness are getting help and guidance in a healthy setting at the Olean Family YMCA.
One way the program raises those funds is through the annual Putt-Putt For a Cause benefit, slated to be held this year from 5 to 10 p.m. July 20 at Mystic Waters Resort in Limestone.
The event invites four-person teams to test their skills at putt-putt golf while enjoying food, beverages, a variety of activities and entertainment. The adult benefit will feature DJ music by Tim Hill, life-size Jenga and cornhole games, a watering hole, a restaurant row, basket raffles provided by local businesses, 50/50s and blue light specials. Admission is $40 per person, or $160 per team, with all proceeds to benefit the Swizzy’s Cause program. The program was established at the YMCA in 2015 in honor of the late Jessica Sweitzer, who lost her life to suicide in 2014.
Her mother, Barbara Sweitzer of Olean, and a consultant for the YMCA of the USA, had been instrumental in setting up the Jessica Sweitzer Memorial Endowment Fund which supports the program. The program is conducted in collaboration with The ReHabilitation Center, which funds the position of YMCA Care Coordinator Ashley Carlson, who facilitates Swizzy’s Cause.
“She has been active in going out to the churches and medical professionals, schools and workplaces just to let them know we’re here for referrals,” Sweitzer said of Carlson. “The aggressive referral program and word-of-mouth have been helpful” with recruiting individuals.
Sweitzer said Carlson meets with the individuals in the program at the Y and helps them with obtain services they may need.
“She may meet in the lobby with (the individuals) or walk on the track with them” helping them obtain any number of needs, Sweitzer said of Carlson. “One of the things Ashley did was take four or five people in the program out to plant flowers. She thinks of ways to make them feel they’re making a difference and they have purpose.”
Sweitzer said funding for the program is managed by the Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation.
Mark Johnson, YMCA community marketing director, said fundraisers, such as the Putt-Putt event, are important to ensure the continuation of the program, which “works on the mind, body and spirit” of participants.
Along those lines, Sweitzer said this year’s theme for the fundraiser is “Be a Hero” and encourages those who attend to have fun and wear their favorite hero outfits.
“The refreshment stand is called the Army Canteen … and we have Super Hero bingo,” she continued. In addition, the tournament is titled “Adult Extreme Putt Putt” as each hole with have “a fun twist that throws the real skill of putt-putt out the window.”
Sweitzer said there will also be fast facts about mental illness within the games and announced throughout the evening.
“We not only try to raise money and have fun, but also raise awareness about mental illness and what people can do if they know someone who needs help,” she explained.
Non-golfers will also have plenty to do during the event, including raffles, adult games and Super Hero games. She noted a complimentary shuttle service will be available from the Olean YMCA to Mystic Waters and back for those who don’t have designated drivers.
Sweitzer and Johnson said the event has been made possible thanks to the helpfulness and generosity of Mystic Waters owner, Bill Rounsville.
“One of the things (Rounsville) donated to us is two nights at one of the cabins (on the grounds), that’s one of our prizes,” she remarked.
On a final note, Sweitzer said she believes her late daughter would have appreciated the Swizzy’s Cause program and all that it has accomplished for people with mental illness over the past few years.
“She would all the time say ‘I’m so lucky to have family who supports me because I know the people who are in these programs don’t have that,’” Sweitzer said of her daughter. “The first thing my husband and I thought about is this is what Jess would have wanted us to do from this tragedy.”
For more information on the event, or to register, visit the YMCA online at yourymca.org or call 373-2400.
(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact her on Twitter, @OTHKate)