By Max Bowenfirstname.lastname@example.org
From offering scholarships to creating art therapy programs, Roseanne Chee hopes to honor her daughter’s memory through the growing mission of Cassie’s Cause.
The non-profit will hold a fundraiser at The Preservation Framer on May 20 in memory of Cassie Jia-Lin Chee, who passed away at the age of 17 due to suicide. Following her passing, the family started Cassie’s Cause in June 2021, a foundation dedicated to increasing the education and awareness around mental health and preventing suicide in young adults.
“I am in the grieving process,” said Roseanne. “I’ll never get over this loss, but I am still very much connected to her daily. I want to honor her in the way she would want to be.”
The fundraiser will include a showcase of Cassie’s artwork. Roseanne said in Cassie’s early years she drew, sang, and wrote, recalling a poem written at the age of 7. This grew in the years that followed through classes and an exhibition at the Attleboro Arts Museum. But as Cassie got older, Roseanne saw her daughter struggle in these creative pursuits, never believing it was good enough. Cassie read about Vincent Van Gogh and the struggles he went through.
“She was an empathic person,” said Roseanne. “She struggled to create art because she was a perfectionist and never thought her work was good enough.”
“A little bright light”
Abby Rovaldi is the program coordinator at the Attleboro Arts Museum and taught Cassie for five years beginning in 2008, when she was 6. She said the Chee family became a fixture at the museum and Cassie took part in 25 classes during that time.
“She was just a little bright light and loved to be creative and it was wonderful to spend those five years with her,” said Rovaldi, who donated one of her works to the fundraiser.
In 2011, Cassie received the Viktor Schreckengost Mangbetu award, given to an Attleboro Arts Museum student in recognition of their artistic achievement. As a result, her work was featured in a solo exhibition that year. Rovaldi and Executive Director Mim Brooks Fawcett went to Cassie’s wake and saw several of her pieces on display, which led to them holding a second exhibition in February of this year.
Rovaldi said Cassie practiced with multiple mediums, and she loved how the young artist saw people through her work. She said that Cassie had something special, and hoped that art helped her during the challenging times.
“(Portraits) can tell you a lot about what they are feeling and their interests,” said Rovaldi. “I felt the portraiture embodied what her self-expression was all about.”
The growing mission of Cassie’s Cause
Roseanne said that Cassie’s Cause has been actively supporting other organizations while determining its own path. She said breaking the stigma around suicide is a key goal and hopes to “change the dialogue,” helping other parents who have gone through what her family has.
“I want to make sure the initiatives match my daughter’s personality,” said Roseanne. “I want to bring awareness to the crisis of mental illness.”
In addition, Roseanne wants to increase resources for families, adding that some lack funding or have long wait limits. Locally, she’d like to fund a scholarship for those going into the mental health, art therapy, and spiritual psychology fields as well as create a documentary about Cassie’s life.
“It’s a journey of grief—ebbs and flows,” she said. “I want to get the help out for other parents who lost a child to suicide. I would love to be speaking on a public platform. We can do more than survive, we can thrive. I want to continue to thrive and keep my daughter’s spirit alive.”
The fundraiser will be from 7-10 p.m. and includes a silent auction of pieces donated by local artists. Selected artwork created by Cassie will be raffled and for sale, as well as her greeting cards. There will be a Mental Health/Wellness Basket to raffle along with live music, hors d’oeuvres and wine. The recipient of three 2022 NAHS Graduating Senior Scholarships will be announced. For more information, visit www.cassiescause.com/.