N. GROSVENORDALE, Conn. - Judy and Jim Cournoyer lost their 29-year old son Charles five years ago on March 30. The immediate cause was a car accident; the longer-term contributing factor was a mental illness: schizoaffective disorder.
Schizophrenia most often develops in men in their early to mid-20s, and that was the case with Charles. Always a loving, generous person, a hard-working contractor, and attending college to become an environmental police officer, he suddenly started doing odd things. That began a difficult five-year journey of mental evaluations, hospitalizations, and medications.
“There are more than 100 drugs to treat mental illness,” said Judy. “They mask the symptoms, but none are a cure.” Charles got worse and worse, she said. The medications had terrible side effects and finally he did not want to take them anymore.
When Charles died, one of Judy's first thoughts was “we need to do something positive, to help find a cure.”
That “something” was the Charles Cournoyer Memorial Golf Tournament, an annual event now in its fifth year. The tournament will be held at the Pine Ridge Country Club in North Oxford on Saturday, May 17. Its purpose is to raise funds for two $1,000 scholarships, one for a graduate of Tourtellotte Memorial High School, where Charles went to school, and one for a graduate of Woodstock Academy, Judy's alma mater and Jim's current employer.
“Mental illness is a real disease.”
Judy's hope is that scholarship recipients will share Charles's passion for service to others and perhaps choose a career in medicine or mental health research that someday could lead to a cure for mental illnesses.
Another goal is to educate people on mental illness. “People with mental illness have been in the news a lot lately,” she noted. “People hate the shooters, but they are victims too. We need to understand what made them do it. Mental illness is a real disease.”
The mental health care Charles received was not optimum, said Judy. She has seen a great disparity in the care given to people who have insurance and those who don't. Charles had no insurance, and was on MassHealth. She believes the care he received was inferior. She does give high marks to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the support group for individuals with mental illness and their families.
Judy talks about Charles: “He really cared about other people. He would walk up to a homeless person and strike up a conversation, to find that person's inside. From the time he was little he had such compassion for people.” She describes his schizophrenia as “a sneaky disease.”
Last year's golf tournament at Pine Ridge turned out 17 teams and Judy laughs as she says her goal is to one year “close the place down for the day.” Registration starts at 11:30 a.m. and the scramble begins at 1:00 p.m. Dinner follows.
Not a golfer but want to participate? Come for the buffet only. The event includes competition prizes, drawings, and a 50/50 raffle. “It's a fun day,” says Judy. “And all the proceeds go to the scholarship fund.”
Cost for the tournament is $100 for individuals. Single players will be matched with others. The buffet only is $25.
For more information and to register, contact Judy at 860-617-5686 or email her at [email protected].