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Sylvan Lake

July 23, 2014

Sister honors brothers in service, raises funds for Wounded Warrior Project

By Cari DeLamielleure-Scott
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
Olivia Cassar, 16, of Sylvan Lake, explains to the audience at the Sets for Vets fundraiser that her interest in the Wounded Warrior Project began with her two brothers enlisting in the Marine Corps.

SYLVAN LAKE — With two brothers in the Marine Corps, supporting veterans and the troops is a priority for 16-year-old Olivia Cassar, of Sylvan Lake.

And her passion for music is what led her to use her vocal talents to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization that serves veterans and servicemembers who have incurred a physical or mental injury, or an illness while serving in the military on or after Sept. 11, 2001, according to the organization’s website.

Over 48,000 servicemen and women have been physically injured in both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, and it is estimated that as many as 400,000 members live with posttraumatic stress disorder, related stress or major depression, according to the Wounded Warrior Project website.

After the organization was formed, Olivia’s father became a loyal donor, and according to Olivia, he motivated her to support the organization, as well. In 2013, Olivia released a cover single of “Say Something,” by A Great Big World, on iTunes and YouTube, and her cover on iTunes has pulled in over $300, which she donated to the Wounded Warrior Project. Since releasing the single, she’s wanted to “go bigger and better.”

“Since my brothers have joined the Marines, I really have felt more of a passion to be motivated with charity donations than ever before,” Olivia said. “I’m trying to incorporate what I love to do — singing — with the people I love, which is the military.”

Olivia and her sister, Alexis, 21, co-hosted an evening of cuisine and musical entertainment — Sets for Vets — July 11 at the Sylvan Lake Community Center, and with 150-200 guests, the sisters surpassed the Community Center’s maximum capacity. They had raised about $7,000 by press time, and donations are still rolling in. Their goal was to raise $5,000, Olivia said.

“I knew what they stood for, and to think that could one day be one of my brothers injured … I wanted to give back to those who fought for our country,” Olivia said, referring to why she was raising funds for the Wounded Warrior Project.

Olivia and Alexis brainstormed the fundraiser in January, but they began requesting donations and contributions from business throughout southeast Michigan in February. Paris a Vous, a business in Paris, France, even supported the event, which shocked people because the Wounded Warrior Project is based in America. The two gathered 33 businesses to support Sets for Vets.

“I was not expecting as many as we did get, but it really did snowball from one or two, then going to three. The numbers just increased as the months went by,” Olivia said.

Olivia, along with TAVISTOCK, performed during the Sets for Vets fundraiser, and merchandise and handmade goods were available for purchase. Olivia said they also held a silent auction for various items and gift cards. They raised about $3,500 just on merchandise and sales, she added.

Marine Cpl. Luke Cassar, Olivia and Alexis’ brother, said that he has friends in the military who are susceptible to dangers and could one day receive the benefits of the Wounded Warrior Project.

“Even if (the Wounded Warrior Project) doesn’t or never will directly affect me personally, it still means a lot that my sister (Olivia) is willing to do that for other people, even if it’s not me,” Luke, 20, said from his base in California.

Luke enlisted in the Marine Corps in January 2013, and he said that his brother, Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Cassar, 19, enlisted in July 2013 and is stationed in Georgia. Matthew was unavailable for comment.

“We come from a large family, and nobody really enlisted in any branch of service, at least by their own choice,” Luke said, adding that he figured it was time to “pay his dues” and that he is “doing it for his family” and for living in a fortunate country.

Donations are still being accepted. To donate for Sets for Vets, email Olivia Cassar at oliviacassarmusic@gmail.com and write “Sets for Vets donation inquiry” in the subject line.

Olivia Cassar’s cover single “Say Something” is available on iTunes for 99 cents. To listen to her cover on YouTube, visit www.YouTube.com and search “Olivia Cassar, Say Something.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Cari DeLamielleure-Scott at cdelamielleure@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1093.