By Carley Dangona
AGAWAM – Giving back to the community is part of Eugene Cassidy’s everyday job and is part of the Eastern State Exposition’s (ESE) longstanding history as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
The Western Massachusetts Council of the Boy Scouts of America will honor Cassidy, president and CEO of the ESE, with the 2014 Distinguished Citizen Award at its dinner gala on April 29 at Chez Josef, 176 Shoemaker Lane, at 6 p.m.
“I was shocked,” Cassidy said upon learning of the honor. “I’m actually kind of embarrassed about it, [but] very flattered.”
Cassidy said that he has always supported the Boy Scouts personally. He admitted that he only reached the Cub Scout level after his previous pack leader transferred to another location. “I didn’t like change,” he said.
“There’s really a terrific connection between scouting and the ESE. And, that is the name Horace Moses [who] was a tremendous promoter of scouting and their advocate. He left property to the Scouts that they’ve used ever since in the form of the Moses Scout Reservation,” Cassidy said.
He continued, “He was an integral part of the genesis of the ESE. A person like that who has his imprint on the genesis of scouting, of the ESE, he also was behind the Junior Achievement movement. What a privilege it is for me today to work for an organization that has all of that in its DNA.”
Cassidy addressed the importance of providing programs to the youth in the community. “It’s easy to be insulated from many of the stresses youth have. It’s important for the future because programs like these [Scouts] are more important than ever before,” he said, adding that such activities teach at-risk youth core values.
He is inspired to support youth programs from his own personal experience. “Frankly, when I was a child, I didn’t have a lot of direction,” he said. Cassidy stated that there were many adults in his neighborhood that stepped in to offer advice and guidance.
According to Cassidy, donations can be monetary, but volunteering one’s time is another important way to give back. He cited examples such as “maintaining a ball field or “building something.”
He said, “People can make many positive contributions when they’re passionate about something.”
Cassidy grew up in West Springfield and now lives in Longmeadow. He also serves on the Board of Directors at NUVO Bank & Trust Company, the Finance Committee of The Springfield Technical Community College Foundation, St. Thomas the Apostle School Board and Finance Committee, the Western Massachusetts Chapter of Legatus as treasurer and the Regional Employment Board as its treasurer.
He is also active in the International Association of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE) as a member of the Budget and Finance Committee and is also a certified fair executive of the IAFE.
Dave Sanderson, a former Scout, hero and survivor of “The Miracle on the Hudson,” will be the guest speaker.
On Jan. 15, 2009, returning home from a routine business trip, Sanderson survived “The Miracle on the Hudson,” when a bird struck U.S. Airways Flight 1549. There was no choice for the crew but to ditch the plane into the Hudson River.
Sanderson was the last person off of the back of the plane that day and was largely responsible for making sure so many others made it out safely.
Exposed to frigid water and freezing temperatures, doctors feared that he would suffer a heart attack or stroke from the dangerous conditions. Miraculously, he returned to his job as a sales manager that following Monday and has since become the face of the everyday American hero. Sanderson’s personal account appears in the book “Brace for Impact.”
The Western Massachusetts Council of the Boy Scouts of America includes Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, and Berkshire Counties. The council served 6,900 youth last year.
This dinner is their largest fundraising event. For ticket information, contact David Kruse at 594-9196, ext. 7002.