BALDWINSVILLE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) – After losing his 19-year-old son to suicide three years ago, a Baldwinsville father is turning his pain into purpose.

This weekend, the 3rd Life Worth Living 5K Run and Walk will celebrate the life of Zach Helfrich, but the event is also a way to raise awareness about suicide and prevention.

August 16, 2019, was a day that changed the Helfrich family forever. Zach had just graduated from Baldwinsville’s Baker High School and was heading off to Virginia Tech, accepted into the prestigious Army Corps of Cadets program.

“He took his life at 7:30 in the morning before we were leaving for Virginia Tech, and my wife and my daughter were in the house. I was literally in the driveway waiting for him to come down when it happened…”


It was certainly an unexpected loss. Zach’s father says he always strived for perfection and pushed himself very hard. He believes that’s what caused Zach to develop fears and anxiety about not succeeding at Virginia Tech.

“We had no clue. We had no clue whatsoever. He never told anybody of his issues and his depression. Never told any friends, never told any teachers, never told us, and so we never saw this coming. Obviously, we saw that he was going through some issues, but never thought he would take his life. That was beyond our comprehension.”


As the days go on without his son, Rob knows one thing for sure. He wants to help others by raising awareness about suicide and prevention.

One way he’s already done that is through the Zach Helfrich Memorial Fund, Inc., a nonprofit charitable organization striving to reduce the prevalence of suicide among young people in Central New York.

On Sunday, August 14, runners and walkers will line up at Abbott Farms, the same place Zach used to work making candy apples, for the Life Worth Living 5K Run and Walk.

“The first year we had it, immediately, it really was in loving memory of Zach. It was the day he died and that’s how I dealt with the grief by having this 5K over here at the place he worked, but the event has grown into so, so much more than that,” Rob explained.

All of the money raised goes to the Zach Helfrich Memorial Endowment to support Upstate Medical University’s Psychiatry High-Risk Program, an outpatient treatment center for adolescents and young people at high risk of suicide.

The Life Worth Living 5K Run, Walk and Family Fun Day is for all. The course itself is certainly unique, weaving through the rows of apple orchards. In one of those rows, runners and walkers will come across 43 memorials of local people who lost their lives to suicide.

“A lot of them are teenagers. The youngest one is 12, and it’s incredibly emotionally impactful when you come up this row and it really drives the point home that yeah, this is real. This is an issue.”


It’s not just an event, but a reminder for everyone their life is worth living.

If you’d like to donate to the Zach Helfrich Memorial Fund, Inc., click here.


  • Location: Abbott Farms, 3275 Cold Springs Road, Baldwinsville, NY 13027
  • 5K Run: 9:00 a.m. start time, $40.00 sign-up
  • 5K Walk: 10:00 a.m. start time, $35.00 sign-up
  • Packet pick-ups & in-person registration: Saturday, August 13 from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m.
  • Race day packet pick up: Sunday, August 14 from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.


If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health or suicidal thoughts, you can call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by simply dialing 988 or text “SAVE” to 741741.