Casey Kasselder might be stuck in a wheelchair, but that doesn't stop the 18-year-old Chiawana High senior from helping others.
It wasn't always that way, she said.
Casey was diagnosed with a rare disease at age 12 and remembers the shock of learning she never would be able to live the way she imagined.
Friedreich's ataxia is caused by an inherited defect in a chromosome. It causes progressive deterioration of the nervous system, weakening your muscles, including the heart.
Casey has a simpler way of explaining it.
"It's like a cell didn't wake up when I was born and caused this disease that effects all the voluntary muscles in my body," she said. "I was horrified when I found out I had this because I didn't want to live my life in a wheelchair. I wanted to be independent. I wanted to be a nurse and help people instead of depending on other people to help me."
But Casey admits her stubborn streak eventually kicked in, and with a leap of faith she overcame the urge to feel sorry for herself and the disappointment of being stuck with an uncertain future.
"My faith and my family help me get through this every day," said Casey, whose dad is Grant Kasselder. "But now that I'm older, I feel like it is my turn to start giving back."
Casey is using her senior project to boost her desire to get more involved with community service.
She has organized the first of what she said she hopes will be an annual event called Paying it Forward.
The benefit concert and silent auction will raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Showtime is 7 p.m. March 4 in the auditorium at Chiawana High School, 8125 W. Argent Road in Pasco.
The show, with KVEW TV's Kevin Uretsky as the master of ceremonies, features performances by Miss Washington Teen Cheyenne Van Tine, Miss Tri-Cities Adrienne Bousquet, Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen Nicole Renard, Miss Washington Outstanding Teen Victoria Renard and rapper Nick Longoria, aka Too Quick.
All the performers have donated their time and talent to help Casey put on a successful fundraiser.
Casey also got on the phone and internet to recruit items for the silent auction. She received an autographed baseball from Ken Griffey Jr., from his 1997 All-Star game. Also up for bid will be an autographed football from the Chicago Bears, four VIP tickets to the Dr. Phil show in Los Angeles, an autographed T-shirt from professional race car driver Kasey Kahne and an autographed hockey stick from Olaf Kolzig, a former Tri-City Americans goalie now retired after a successful career with the NHL.
"I wouldn't have been able to get this fundraiser to happen without some wonderful friends who were more than willing to help me," Casey said. "But I'm a little worried about ticket sales because I've only sold eight so far. But we got posters up all over town, so maybe that will help."
Admission is $10 at the door or in advance by calling Casey at 509-942-4022 or Chris Mayfield at 509-528-2631. Kids age 7 and younger are free.
But there is more than a senior project motivating Casey.
"I don't want others who are diagnosed with MD to think their dreams have been shattered," she said. "I want them to know everyone has a purpose and there is always something they can do to make a difference, and bigger and better things are waiting to be discovered. So, don't let a wheelchair stand in your way."