REM Award Honorees (2016) — Cassidy Charette (Big Brothers Big Sisters)

It has been said, “If you want to give light to others, you have to glow yourself.” Proving one person can make a difference in this world, a young woman did just that—and now she inspires us all to shine our own light. It is with tremendous pride that Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine honors and celebrates the life and legacy of Cassidy Jean Charette (August 31, 1997 – October 11, 2014) with the 2016 REM Volunteer Award.

Cassidy was just 17, when her life was suddenly taken in a tragic hayride accident on October 11, 2014. She was passionate about her family, her friends, her faith, and her constant desire to help others. She was academically ranked first in her class, a standout athlete and a volunteer at area animal shelters, soup kitchens, senior centers, youth programs, food pantries and in her church. Determined she could help children live happier lives, she became a volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters and more recently, a trained mentor. Cassidy was anxiously waiting to meet her “Little Sister” when the accident happened just two weeks before their first introduction.

Hers was a life well lived, in just 6,250 days, selflessly, and humbly, sharing her kindness with everyone. And now a community has been called to action to “shine on.” Big Brothers Big Sisters took action by establishing the mentoring program Cassidy dreamed of at her school. More than 100 Messalonskee students applied to be “Bigs” and within four months, matches were made and meeting each week at two elementary schools in Oakland. Cass made this happen.

This spring, in her honor, we are expanding that program to help more kids by pairing 40 area high school students with children at the Waterville YMCA and Boys and Girls Club at the Alfond Youth Center. Kids experience positive role modeling, kindness and respect, leading to higher aspirations, better relationships and successful lives. While teens discover they can make a difference in a child’s future. Cassidy is changing the lives of 140 youth for the better—forever.

The BBBS program is just one of the many ways that Cassidy’s light shines on. Last fall, students and community members came together to build “Cassidy’s Kitchen” at Hart-to-Hart Farm and Education Center in Albion, where Cassidy cared for animals. Mount Merici Academy launched a Cassidy’s Kids service program so that future generations will follow in her footsteps of giving.

Annual “Shine On Cass” awards have been established at her school—from lacrosse and soccer awards to recognizing students who best emulate Cass’s kindness. Recipients of the school’s “ShineOnCass” award are given a monetary gift to be payed forward. And this June, at what was to be Cassidy’s graduation, a student will receive the first “ShineOnCass” Memorial Scholarship.

Look around you. You will see ShineOnCass on bumper stickers, in social media, on uniforms and the Cass4Ever logo on banners and T-shirts. Athletes will continue to stand proudly in Cassidy’s #11 formation before each game and carry her track cleats to every meet. Cassidy’s favorite color was blue, which you will find still tied to mailboxes and street posts and blue lights shine on in neighborhood windows. In just 18 months, nearly $200,000 has been given to charitable organizations close to Cassidy’s heart and hundreds of hours volunteered in support of community projects in her memory.

We know this is not where the story ends. The endless acts of kindness being extended to others are the Light that is Cassidy. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine is proud to honor Cassidy, and the people in her community, who continue to Shine On.

The Charette family has created the ShineOnCass Foundation to educate, inspire and empower youth to continue Cassidy’s passion for caring for others through volunteer charitable activities. The Foundation supports a number of programs, including youth mentoring and community service programs, and funds an annual ShineOnCass Scholarship at Messalonskee High School. For more information, visit its Facebook page.

To learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine, visit its website.

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