Spina bifida doesn’t slow S Carolina woman’s volunteerism
MIDDLE TYGER, S.C. (AP) — Don’t ever tell Cassie Fowler she can’t do something.
She’ll set out to prove you wrong.
Despite being born with a condition that’s kept her confined to a wheelchair, Cassie Fowler has taken boundless energy and combined it with a positive attitude and made the most of it.
She’s become a regular volunteer at spots around Spartanburg County and for years has raised funds for multiple organizations, from the American Heart Association to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
And last month, state lawmakers took notice of her efforts.
The South Carolina House of Representatives recently honored her volunteer work and service to the citizens of the District 5 area, Spartanburg County and the state of South Carolina.
Rep. Rita Allison, a longtime family friend, called Fowler, “a perfect living example of turning whatever comes our way into a positive.”
Fowler said she appreciated the recognition, but said her everyday volunteer work might be reward enough. “It’s something I’ve done for so long, I think it’s just part of me,” Fowler said. “I really enjoy it and I want to keep doing it.”
Always looking to help
Fowler, a 1991 graduate of Byrnes High School, was born with spina bifida, a condition that affected her spinal column.
It’s meant she’s had to rely on a wheelchair to get around but she said she’s never focused on what she can’t do - only on what she can.
“I was born with this,” Cassie Fowler said. “I have it, but it doesn’t have me. I’ve always had that attitude.”
Armed with that strength, Fowler spent half-a-decade lending her helping hands to the Middle Tyger Library, but she also became a tireless fundraiser for charity efforts where she could leverage her connections and work the phones from home.
Along the way, she said she realized she wanted to do something on a more personal level. That’s when her Christmas and Valentine’s Day card mailing efforts began. She started slowly with area hospitals, until one reached out and said any excess “best wishes” cards would be given to family members of patients.
That led her to double her output, she said. This year, she plans to mail more than 1,100 cards to patients across the region.
“The cards I probably like doing the best,” Fowler said. “It’s fun to talk to people and reach out and let them know you’re thinking of them. It’s personal and I write every one of them.”
For the past two years, she’s brought her efforts to the Middle Tyger Community Center where she mans the phones and helps manage the center’s social media output.
Kim Barnett, operations director at Middle Tyger Community Center, said Fowler’s biggest contribution remains her energy and willingness to always ask, “What can I do? Where do you need me?”
“If we could clone her, we would,” Barnett said.
You can always help
Fowler said she’s driven by a simple realization that anyone, “can always do just a little more.”
She said that’s the philosophy she brings to her life despite her physical limitations.
You might not be able to physically do something, she said, but you can always share a joke or a gesture to brighten someone else’s day, and if you think hard enough you can find a way to contribute.
“I’m just me, just Cassie,” Fowler said. “I rarely focus on the fact that I’m in this chair. One of my favorite pictures is this guy on the river fishing and the caption says, ‘Don’t tell me what I can’t do.’ So I’m going to live my life.”
Her advice to others facing adversity?
“Find something in your life that’s positive, that will keep you on a positive track,” Fowler said.
For now, Fowler said she’s in between major fundraising efforts but said the Middle Tyger Community Center is hosting an ongoing “pop tab” collection effort that could always use help. So far, Fowler said they’ve brought in some 8,000 tabs that’ll be turned over to the Ronald McDonald House charity.