By: Alexander Thomas Kennedy
A driven and determined athlete, Cassandra McGrath is the 2019 Easter Seals Ambassador for Newfoundland and Labrador
Cassandra McGrath recently returned from representing Newfoundland at the Canada Games. Now, the 14-year-old Torbay resident will represent Easter Seals as its new provincial ambassador.
Cassandra, or ‘Cass’ as her friends call her, has cerebral palsy, a disability caused by damage to the developing brain either before, during, or after birth. As a result, she is unable to use her legs and uses a wheelchair to get around. She faces many challenges, but she always tries to find a way to overcome them.
‘I wasn’t afraid’
“I kind of just assess the situation and think about how I could do it myself, even if I have to adapt,” said McGrath, a student at Holy Trinity High School.
McGrath is a member of the Newfoundland wheelchair basketball team that represented the province at the Canada Games in Red Deer, Alberta. She was the glue of the team, helping to keep everyone together and focused.
“It was surreal,” shared McGrath. “The first time I went on the court, I almost started crying. I went on that court and forgot everything that I was thinking about beforehand and I just started playing basketball. It was just basketball. I wasn’t afraid . . . It was all adrenaline.”
Back from the thrill of the games, McGrath says she’s ready to represent Easter Seals in Newfoundland. Easter Seals works with persons with disabilities, helping them to overcome challenges they may face in society. She wanted to become an ambassador after speaking with her family, friends and past ambassadors. McGrath has received a lot of help from the group, in more ways than one.
“They’ve helped me raise my self-esteem. When I was little, I had low self-esteem when it came to my disability, I didn’t like talking about it.
“But then, through the people I met at Easter Seals, I learned it’s OK to be myself and to not worry about my disability. When I come to Easter Seals, the whole disability aspect of my life is gone. My disability is second and my life is first.”
McGrath made her first appearance as Easter Seals ambassador in February at Government House, helping to ring in March as Easter Seals Month. Eileen Bartlett, a member of the ambassador selection committee, said McGrath was the perfect choice for the role.
“Cass has an energy,” Bartlett said. “Very expressive and has an enthusiasm she has learned from living through programs at Easter Seals. She shares that in such a positive way, so that she can encourage others to be involved and be a mentor to others.”
A great role model
Her mother, Hayley McGrath, has been by her side all the way and was a big help in the application process to be the ambassador. She says her daughter is a great choice for the role.
“She’s got a mind of her own,” she shared proudly. “Right now, she seems to be trying to do whatever she wants to do. If she wants to do something, she’s going to do it.”
The ceremony at Government House was the first of many for McGrath. Over the next year, she’s looking forward to getting the Easter Seals message out there to as many people as she can.
“I’m looking forward to just representing Easter Seals and educating people on what Easter Seals does – how it helps persons with disabilities and how a disability is not a limitation. It might be there, but just because someone has one it doesn’t affect their entire life.”