Zachary Peter Liberatore was born on December 19th, 1995 in Buffalo, NY. He was a happy baby and a beautiful boy with a smile that would light up a room. He loved animals, he loved Harry Potter, and he loved football, but there is nothing Zach loved more than his 3 younger brothers. He thought that they were the most amazing people on the planet. They had a shared obsession with sports, Disney World, and their beloved Buffalo Bills. They made him laugh, and he loved just being around them. Although they grew up in Orchard Park, NY, Zach chose to go to Canisius high school in the city of Buffalo. There he met kids from all over WNY. He was Quarterback of the football team and helped lead his team to a championship at the Bills stadium. His qualities on the field were his qualities in life; he was a leader and a warrior. Zach had many friends who loved him. He had a calm, easy going nature and a kind, compassionate heart. He was an empath and an old soul. He didn't judge people; he accepted people for who they truly were. He was a gifted athlete, intelligent, funny, and charming. Kids adored him. He appeared to have a bright future ahead of him, but he was hiding his pain with his beautiful smile. When he was 16, he was diagnosed with OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. By then, tormented and compulsive thoughts had taken over his life. His brain never stopped. It was affecting his school performance, his driving, his sleep, and his ability to be around friends. Although he was in counseling and on medication, by his 17th birthday, he admitted that he no longer wanted to live; he contemplated suicide. He spent 2 weeks at ECMC children's psychiatric unit. And so our nightmare began.
In the years that followed, Zach had excellent psychologists and psychiatrists to help him, but nothing seemed to help. He turned to self medicating with alcohol and a painkiller, an opiate called Opana. He continued to ask for help; he wanted to live. He wanted to get better. Over the course of 8 years, he went to 6 short term and 6 long term inpatient facilities in WNY and all over the country. During that time, he was a student at the University of Buffalo and planned to become a counselor to help kids who struggled with mental health challenges like he did. UB even awarded Zach with a posthumous diploma (magna cum laude!) because he was only a few credits from graduating.
In the summer of 2020, Zach spiraled downward. On September 30th, 2020 he overdosed on Opana, which resulted in his death on October 2nd, 2020. He was 24 years old. We, his family, are heartbroken to have lost our beautiful boy, and we miss him every day. We founded the Zach Liberatore Foundation to continue Zach's legacy of helping others and raising awareness for OCD and other mental health challenges. Zach was always posting on social media, bravely sharing his struggles with mental health in a raw and honest way, and encouraging others to do the same. After he died, we had countless messages from his friends he'd met in treatment all across the country who said that Zach had helped them, encouraged them. Some even said he had saved their life. Through our pain, we had deep gratitude for all that Zach had done to help others. Through his foundation, we hope to continue to do that. Zach's story continues.....
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