On April 6, 2017, Sami Bensky, a 16-year old cheerleader from Toronto, passed away. In her memory, Sami’s family established the Sami Bensky Memorial Fund for Mental Health Education in partnership with CMHA Toronto. This fund is used to increase mental health awareness and education for youth in Toronto through workshops and various educational initiatives. To date, the fund has grown to raise approximately $15,000, with our most recent donation made by Sami’s close friend and fellow cheerleader, Sophie Korda.
Both Sami and Sophie cheered for the Limelight Cheerleading Allstars and shared a very close bond over the sport. Like others, Sophie didn’t know that Sami was struggling with her mental health and was strongly affected by the sudden news of her passing. “Sami had so many people around her – friends, family, teammates and coaches, and she didn’t even didn’t feel comfortable telling them,” shares Sophie.
To commemorate Sami’s life, Sophie started an inspirational initiative called ‘The Sami Bow.’ Saving all her money, Sophie was able to create a cheerleading bow to bring awareness to Sami’s story. The bow was designed using a light blue ribbon – Sami’s favourite colour, with angel wings attached.
Sophie first ordered 50 bows to sell online, successfully selling all 50 bows in just 10 minutes. What started locally eventually reached the cheerleading community worldwide, receiving orders from Canada, to the United States, all the way to Germany.
A year after Sami’s passing, Sophie decided to continue selling the bows at Nationals – the biggest cheerleading event of the year, bringing together over 360 teams from across Canada and the United States. Teams all around Niagara Falls replaced their team bows with The Sami Bow.
By sharing Sami’s story, Sophie was able to tie the cheerleading community closer together, and the impact was more significant than Sophie expected. “Parents have been emailing me telling me that because of The Sami Bow, they started to have mental health and suicide conversations with their kids. This means so much to me knowing I can maybe save one person’s life through this initiative.”
To date, Sophie has sold over 200 bows and received numerous donations, raising a total of $2700! All proceeds have graciously been donated to the Sami Bensky Memorial Fund for Mental Health Education.
Sophie hopes that by sharing Sami’s story, she’ll be able to educate others on mental health and suicide prevention. “Just because someone doesn’t tell you how they’re feeling doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask,” says Sophie. “The more you talk about how meaningful life is and that there are more options than self-harm and suicide, people struggling will be more inclined to tell someone what they’re going through. We need to make people aware of the resources and options available to them.”
We want to thank Sophie for her efforts to raise mental health awareness in our community and for continuing to share Sami’s story.
If you’d like to make a direct donation to the Sami Bensky Memorial Fund for Mental Health Education, please click here.