Less than a year after opening a mentoring program in honor of Cassidy Charette at Messalonskee High School, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine is expanding to help more kids in her memory by launching a program at Boys and Girls Club & YMCA at the Alfond Youth Center in Waterville. The new mentoring program will pair area high school students with 40 youth attending the Alfond Youth Center’s after school care program.

High school students from Messalonskee, Winslow and Waterville are already applying, according to a news release from Alex Gaeth, CEO for BBBS of Mid-Maine. “The response has been much like our recruitment call for mentors at Messalonskee,” he said, referencing the unprecedented 105 students who signed up to be mentors last March at the Oakland programs. “Cassidy continues to be a role model and her spirit of helping others clearly lives on in this community.”

Charette was a volunteer for several charitable organizations, including Big Brothers and Big Sisters. She was just two weeks shy of meeting her first Little Sister when her life was suddenly taken following a tragic hayride accident in Mechanic Falls. Gaeth said in the absence of a program 16 months ago at her high school, Charette convinced staff to allow her to be a mentor for a child at the Alfond Youth Center. “It was Cassidy’s dream and motivation to help others that started what is now our agency’s largest site-based program. If there are enough high school mentors to launch this new program in March, we can help change the lives of another 80 youth in this community. That is significant,” Gaeth said in the release.

BBBS School-Based Manager Will Malsbury, said they are looking for “Bigs” who are freshmen, sophomores and juniors from area high schools, to be matched one-to-one with “Littles” who attend the after-school-care program at the AYC. Matches will meet weekly during the school year and in the summer months will stay in touch through pen-pal writing. High school mentors will be screened, trained and carefully matched and are required to give at minimum a one-year commitment, which statistics show, offers greater long-term impact. The new programwill have broad appeal to busy high school students, Malsbury said in the release.

“While we will encourage match meetings to happen on the same day each week, because the Littles attend every day, the Alfond program will give mentors a little more flexibility in switching days because of athletic or other conflicts,” Malsbury said in the release.

Matches at the Alfond Youth Center will be supervised each week by trained and screened adults and will be supported by professional staff from BBBS who provide match support to ensure safety and success. Applications will be accepted until Feb. 26 from interested high school students who wish to be interviewed to become a mentor for the program. The program is slated to begin late March. To receive an application, or for more information, contact Will Malsbury at 592-4606 or email [email protected]

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine serves 700 youth each year free of charge, making programs accessible to kids facing adversity in Kennebec, Knox, Lincoln, Penobscot, Somerset, Waldo counties. It costs about $1,000 to fund one match for a year, which provides volunteer screenings, background checks, training and professional support. The majority of funding comes from community support. Among the agency’s largest fundraising events is Bowl for Kids’ Sake held in four regions and involving over 2,000 bowlers. Last year’s event raised over $270,000, about 40 percent of the agency’s operating budget. The largest event last year was “Bowl for Cassidy’s Sake” which raised over $50,000 for the Messalonskee program, according to the release. This year’s event will benefit the new program at the Alfond Youth Center.

Bowl for Cassidy’s Sake will be held 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, May 7, at Sparetime Recreation Center in Hallowell. There will be free bowling, shoe rentals and prizes will be awarded every hour. “Shine On Cassidy” T-shirts will be given to teams raising $300 or more. Every individual who raises $100 is entered into a drawing for a free laptop, donated by A-Copi. Bowl for Cassidy’s Sake”is presented by Hammond Lumber Company, New Balance and Aetna. To register a team or become a sponsor of the event, call 314-6996 or visit bbbsmidmaine.org.

The first high school student to sign up and be matched at Messalonskee was Cassidy’s younger brother, Colby, who says he is excited about the new program. “A lot of Cassidy’s friends in other schools were hoping to be part of this, and now they can,” he said in the release. “I can tell them it’s so rewarding to be with my Little Brother Harrison every week, and to know just an hour of my time can make a big difference in his life.