ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) — Jennifer and Peter Liberatore lost their son Zach in 2020 after a long battle with obsessive-compulsive disorder. They started a foundation in their son’s name, focusing on creating more resources for those struggling with OCD.

“He was a wonderful boy,” said Jennifer Liberatore. “I always say he was an exceptional human.”

Those who knew Zach Liberatore said he had the ability to connect with anyone.

He was a great athlete — quarterback of the Canisius High School football team.

And dedicated to his family — best friends with his three younger brothers.

“It was hard when all of that switched very quickly and suddenly when he turned 16,” added Jennifer Liberatore. “And then he had eight years of just very difficult, it was just difficult for the whole family all that he went through.”

Zach was diagnosed with debilitating obsessive-compulsive disorder at age 16.

The unwanted intrusive thoughts and compulsions would seep into every aspect of his life.

The International OCD Foundation estimates about 1 in 100 adults struggle with the disorder.

“He was suicidal at that time,” added Jennifer Liberatore. “He went to ECMC for two weeks and finally, through all of that we got hooked up with Oishei with a great psychologist at their psychiatric clinic. But, that was almost a year after he started with his symptoms.”

Zach would face a long and tiring battle in the years that followed.

His parents told us he was open about his struggle and wanted help. He was even attending the University at Buffalo to become a mental health counselor.

“He had it in his mind that he was going to be able to fight this,” said Peter Liberatore. “But, his whole thing was he wanted to help other people. That’s all he ever wanted to do.”

But that bright smile Zach was known for was dimmed on September 30, 2020. In an attempt to self-medicate, the 24-year-old overdosed on a painkiller and later passed away.

“It’s a sad, sad disease that needs to be rectified as much as we can,” added Peter Liberatore.

In the wake of his passing, the Zach Liberatore Foundation was founded. Its goal is to raise awareness and funding for OCD treatment in Western New York.

On September 23, the third annual Zachtober Fest fundraiser will be held in Orchard Park, benefiting Oishei Children’s Hospital’s Psychiatry Clinic.

This year’s event will feature food, drinks, a Taylor Swift concert ticket raffle and more.

Since 2020, the foundation has raised nearly $200,000 for the Oishei Children’s Hospital psychiatric clinic.

“One of the things that they did with last year’s funds was that they now started a partnership with Rogers Behavioral in Wisconsin which is this premier institute for helping with OCD,” said Jennifer Liberatore.

For information on the Zach Liberatore Foundation and Zachtoberfest, click here.

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If you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis, help is available now. Erie County’s Crisis Hotline is available 24 hours a day: 716-834-3131. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available 24 hours a day: Simply call or text 988, or chat at 988lifeline.org. For more information, visit CrisisServices.org.

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Patrick Ryan is an award-winning reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2020. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.