SPRINGFIELD — The Advertising Club of Western Massachusetts’ Trustees of the Order of William Pynchon have announced their selection of three local residents as recipients of this year’s Pynchon medal. Slated to receive medals at an Oct. 10 event are:
• Charles R. Casartello, Jr., an attorney at the Springfield-based firm of Pellegrini, Seeley, Ryan and Blakesley, and a long-time advocate for the Open Pantry Community Service and Griffin’s Friends,nominated by Ronald Berger, M.D.;
• Robert Charland, a man committed to providing working bicycles and other services to children in need, nominated by Marsha Montori; and
• Heriberto Flores, founding member of Partners for Community and advocate for the underserved, nominated by Ed Cohen.
“Recognizing those who have made an outstanding impact to our communities has been in the Ad Club charter for more than 100 years,” said Scott Whitney, chairman of the Pynchon Trustees. “Every one of this year’s Pynchon recipients fulfills that criteria in a superlative way.”
This year’s recipients were chosen from a pool of nominations for the award received earlier this year by the Advertising Club. All nominees are researched by the trustees, who then deliberate before selecting final recipients. All Pynchon medalists are chosen by unanimous decision of the Pynchon trustees, who are the current, and five past presidents of the Advertising Club. Pynchon Trustees for 2019 are Barbara Perry, Jillian Gould, Teresa Utt, David Cecchi, Scott Whitney, and current Advertising Club president Brenda McGiverin.
More than 200 citizens have been inducted into the Order of William Pynchon since its founding in 1915.
In his role as an attorney, Cassartelo, has provided countless hours of pro bono services to those who couldn’t otherwise afford legal help. Counted among this number are four cases in which he represented first responders and families who suffered the loss of a loved one in the 9/11 tragedy.
After years of involvement with Springfield’s Bright Nights Road Race, Casartello developed a new fundraising event for Open Pantry Community Services — the Stuffing the Pantry Thanksgiving Day Road Race. Through his leadership, the event has raised more than $200,000 and approximately 15,000 pounds of food over its first seven years, becoming the single largest fundraiser for Open Pantry.
In 1994, Jim and Michelle Kelleher founded Griffin’s Friends in memory of their son. This organization is dedicated to bringing moments of joy to courageous children facing cancer and to raise funds for the Griffin’s Friends Children’s Cancer Fund at Baystate Health Foundation. Casartello was an early supporter of Griffin’s Friends and continues to be a connector for volunteers.
Charland’s life has been distinctly marked by tragedy — but it is in no way a stretch to say that he has, time and time again, turned trauma into superlative goodness.
Take, for example, the horrific revelation that his then 9-year-old daughter had been the victim of rape at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend. Charland won full custody, but also threw his efforts into giving his daughter a life of fun and purpose — and charting himself on the same course. In addition to the several jobs he held to make ends meet, Bob became leader of his daughter’s Girl Scout troop and began coaching girls’ softball. Eventually, his daughter grew up and moved on to other activities, giving Charland something he wasn’t accustomed to: free time. He filled the void by providing what he called “deaf automotive” instruction for students attending the Willie Ross School for the Deaf.
Shortly thereafter, Charland suffered trauma of his own. During his time as a bouncer in one of his many jobs, he was assaulted with a baseball bat and sustained a brain injury that led to a cerebral cyst, giving him the cognition of a man decades his senior. His first thought was to put his affairs in order and contact Death with Dignity to avoid becoming a burden to others. But when a Springfield school counselor called him to ask whether he could refurbish some old bikes for underprivileged children, his mindset changed. Yes, he could refurbish bikes, and he also had some old ones he could work on and give to kids. Answering that request was the first step on a journey that he calls, simply, “the bike thing”—a venture that has grown into a prolific nonprofit called Pedal Thru Youth, giving more than 1,200 underprivileged children a bike of their own.
Recently, Charland has included modified toy cars, or powerwheels, in his repertoire. These child-size vehicles allow young people with disabilities to become mobile and ease their fear as they drive themselves from hospital rooms to treatment.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said of Charland in an interview with BusinessWest, “His attitude is so positive—it’s not about himself, it’s about making a better opportunity for these kids and showing that people do care. He’s a one-man wrecking crew.”
Despite the substantial time and financial commitment Charland has invested in Pedal Thru Youth (a year ago he estimated he had spent more than $10,000 on bikes), he has created another venture delivering what he calls “safety bags” for the homeless and others in need. The Springfield Police Department has dubbed the project “Operation Basic Necessities.” Each bag contains items such as gloves, scarves, hats, toothbrushes and toothpaste, protein shakes, granola bars, and more. He began with the State Police, who gave them to those in need, and has since outfitted each Springfield police cruiser with two gender-specific bags, which he replaces for free as they’re needed. He has also donated bags through the Connecticut State Police Department, and the Hampden County Sheriff’s department, where he serves as a Sheriff’s deputy.
In 1971, Flores launched the New England Farm Worker’s Council (NEFWC), a human-service agency dedicated to improving the quality of life for migrant and seasonal farm workers doing the work that he knew so well. Over time, the organization provided education and skills training to thousands of low-income people living throughout Western and North-central Mass., Central Connecticut, Rhode Island, southern New Hampshire, and Puerto Rico. In particular, the Farm Worker’s Council is a champion for the Hispanic communities in these regions.
Flores’ early years were marked by poverty and the struggle for basic daily needs that plague too many Americans. His cumulative response to that experience was Partners for Community, a network of five non-profit social service agencies throughout New England, of which the Farm Worker’s Council is one. Together, these agencies provide employment, family assistance, adult education, youth development, and other services to populations with special needs.
The presentation of the Pynchon Medal and celebration will take place on Oct. 10 at the Log Cabin in Holyoke. Event details and ticket information can be found on the club’s website: adclubwm.org or by calling 413-342-0533.