Rob Cashell and his family were surrounded by love in the wake of an accident that took the life of his daughter, Hanna Cashell.
“To have the love and supportof people not only in our own community in La Grande and Union County but those outside our community that we’re associated with (has) been amazing and helpful as our family tries to reconcile what happened,” Cashell said.
Hanna, a La Grande High School graduate who was attending Eastern Oregon University, was fatally injured in a vehicle accident just west of La Grande April 11.
The outpouring of care for the Cashell family has been expressed in many ways in the past five months, and the sports family of the Cascade Collegiate Conference, of which Rob Cashell is the commissioner, has taken its own unique step to commemorate Hanna’s life.
The football teams at Eastern Oregon University, Southern Oregon University and the College of Idaho are wearing golden-wing helmet decals this fall as a way to honor the entire Cashell family.
“It’s very humbling and very much appreciated,” Cashell said. “The support (and) to know that people think about us and care, it means the world to us.”
The concept actually originated on the Caldwell, Idaho, campus of the College of Idaho in the days following the accident when equipment manager John Grove approached then-
athletic director Marty Holly with the idea.
Holly said he was uncertain at first.
“I didn’t know how Rob would feel,” Holly said.
But when Holly attended Hanna’s celebration of life, he knew it was the right thing to do.
“After going to the service, there was no doubt,” he said.
Holly gave Grove the go-ahead to design the decal, and Grove said he wanted to do something special.
“I didn’t want to just do a black ribbon,” he said. “I wanted to do something beyond that. I wanted to appreciate her life and show that she’s going to be missed by more than just the Cashell family, (but) that she’s going to be missed by everyone in the conference.”
The design Grove came up with was a pair of golden wings with her initials in the middle.
“It’s going to shine like her life,” Grove said. “Let’s celebrate and let her shine. That’s how we came up with the gold chrome.”
Holly ran the idea by Rob Cashell, then reached out to both EOU and SOU to see if they wanted to join.
“When College of Idaho contacted me, we did not hesitate,” EOU Athletic Director Anji Weissenfluh said. “Without a doubt, Rob, Heather, Hanna and Elizabeth (Cashell have) all impacted the university, the athletic department and the community.”
Matt Sayre, athletic director at Southern Oregon, felt the same way, noting that his school has also been affected by the Cashells for the better.
“We all felt (the loss) and wanted to do something,” he said. “We wanted to remember Hanna, so when Marty called me, I said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
Beyond commemorating Hanna, the schools viewed it as a way to honor Rob Cashell and his entire family.
“Rob Cashell is EOU football,” EOU football coach Tim Camp said.
Cashell served as EOU athletic director prior to taking the position as the CCC commissioner.
“I owe everything in the world to Rob,” Camp said. “(He) hired me at Eastern. He’s got a great family. This is one way, a small way, to just show him how much he means to us and his family means to us, and it’s just an honor to be able to have Hanna’s initials and wings on our helmet as we go through the season. In a small way, we’re trying to honor her and the family. It’s a big time deal to us.”
It’s not the only way Hanna is being honored. Cashell said leadership team members at the upcoming EOU Week of Welcome will be wearing a volleyball decal on the sleeve of their T-shirts with Hanna’s name, and La Grande High School’s annual home volleyball tournament is being renamed the Hanna Cashell Memorial Tournament.
Heather Cashell, Hanna’s mother, said the outpouring of support since the accident has reinforced what the family already knew about her daughter.
“In life, Hanna was a force of nature,” she said. “She was independent, spirited, loving and humble. She was loved by so many. We knew this, but since the accident, we have come to know just how much she was loved through the stories people share and the way they honor her memory. There just aren’t words for how thankful we are for the blessing of support that we continue to receive from our community and sports family.”