Shine On Cass has become a familiar phrase throughout Central Maine, seen on everything from t-shirts to bumper stickers—but even more so, the expression has become a call to action.
In the fall of 2014, the RSU 18 community was shaken to its core by a tragic hayride accident that cost the life of a bright and aspiring young woman. Cassidy Charette, just 17 years old and top of her class at Messalonskee High School, was a dedicated student and athlete and a lifelong supporter of her community. In the wake of that tragedy, her friends and family have funneled their grief into a series of events and programs that not only serve to keep Cassidy’s memory alive, but serve and strengthen our community as a whole.
Last year Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine’s first Bowl for Cassidy’s Sake raised a record-breaking $50,000 for a new Messonlonskee school-based mentoring program that was started in Cassidy’s honor. Cass was two weeks shy of meeting her first “Little Sister” before her passing. In response more than 100 high school students applied to be mentors, and today 30 “Bigs” and their “Littles” meet weekly at Atwood Primary and Williams Elementary School. Several of these students and volunteers were recognized at a regional BBBS program celebration last month. Messalonskee’s coordinator team, made up of Erinn Michaud, Sarah Rushton, Maureen Vashon and Denise Gianini, were honored as Coordinators of the Year; and high school students Nathan Violette and Colby Charette were presented with the first ShineOnCass Award. Blake Marden received an honorable mention.
Cassidy’s light shines on this year at Waterville’s Boys and Girls Club & YMCA at the Alfond Youth Center, where high school students from surrounding towns now have the opportunity to be mentors. According to Cassidy’s mother, Monica Charette, this is the agency’s largest site-based program, with plans to have 40 matches meeting each week at the Alfond Center. Freshmen, sophomores and juniors from area high schools are interviewed, screened and trained before being matched with youth attending the after school care program. “The kids experience positive role modeling, which leads to higher aspirations, better relationships and successful futures,” Charette said. “And high school students quickly realize this experience is much larger than themselves. They aren’t just fulfilling community service hours. This experience often changes them as much as it changes a child’s life.”
The BBBS program is just one of the many ways that Cassidy’s light shines on in our community. Shine on Cass and Messo Strong logos are seen throughout the area; last fall students and community members came together to build “Cassidy’s Kitchen”at Hart to Hart farm, and Mount Merici launched the Cassidy’s Kids service program. There’s also the ShineOnCass Junior Book Awards, presented to several students for outstanding service with one junior receiving a gift of $100 dollars from the Charette family to donate to the charity of his or her choice.
This year will also see the first recipient of the ShineOnCass Scholarship, which will be given to a student in Cassidy’s graduating class. The scholarship began with the proceeds from a Red Barn fundraiser in the days following the accident, but the fund has swelled to nearly $30,000 raised from events organized by many subsections of the community. The family said the scholarship will recognize students who best emulate who Cassidy was, both as a student, and a person who cared about others. To receive the scholarship over four years, applicants must commit to 20 hours of service each academic year. It also encourages recipients to keep in close contact with the family and community. “Our hope is that students will return to this amazing Messalonskee community and take part in annual events that support the continuation of the scholarship, and keep the light that is Cass shining on.”
This year’s Bowl for Cassidy’s Sake will be held at Sparetime Recreation Center in Hallowell, on May 7th, from 10 am to 2 pm. Proceeds from the event will benefit the new BBBS program in Cassidy’s honor at the Alfond Youth Center. To register a team or for more information visit bbbsmidmaine.org/bfcs or call 314-6996.
The community is also invited to attend the dedication of Cassidy’s Kitchen on May 14th beginning at noon at Hart-to-Hart Farm in Albion.
Students interested in becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister at the Alfond Youth Center can call 592-4606 for more information.
Messalonskee Students working to build Cassidy’s Kitchen at Hart to Hart Farm in Albion.