Since taking over the Anime Club eight years ago, Candace Chase has made it a haven of sorts for teens—a place where they can feel comfortable and have fun while learning about Japanese culture and working to make a difference in their community and in the world. On Monday evening, Chase was honored for her efforts with the 2012 Patrick C. Forde Good Person Memorial Award.
“It’s not just another Needham High School club, and it’s not just a group of kids who are interested in Japanese anime cartoons,” explained Wendy Surr, one of several people who nominated Chase for the award. “What Candace has created—ironically, right here in this room—is a haven for Needham High School kids who need an alternative to the fast-paced competitive social scene that can happen over at the high school.”
When Chase took over leadership of the club in 2004 as a substitute teacher, it had a dozen members. Today, the club boasts a membership of 35 and also has about 33 active alumni who are still welcome to participate in meetings and events when they are in town. The group meets twice a week in the ’s community room, 12 months of the year.
“The Anime Club’s really about giving kids a home and giving kids a connection and making them feel comfortable,” said Jon Mattleman, Needham Youth Services director. “It is a place to learn, it is a place to have fun, but it's really that connection that is so important.”
At a ceremony held in the same library room where the group meets, and surrounded by past and present members of the Anime Club as well as friends, family and local officials, Chase was honored for her work with local youth, receiving a plaque as well as a citation from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, presented by state Rep. Denise Garlick.
The award, now in its sixth year, is named after the late Patrick C. Forde, a Needham resident and community activist who felt it was especially important to support Needham’s youth.
“Pat loved his family and he loved this community,” said Patricia Forde, Patrick’s wife. “He felt strongly that he had a responsibility to get involved.”
A commissioner of trust funds and a Town Meeting member, Patrick supported youth sports teams, volunteered with the Needham , helped the Needham Exchange Club at their annual and volunteered in many other ways in his community.
After Patrick’s death, his family established the Patrick C. Forde Memorial Fund, a nonprofit fund through which they annually award scholarships to two Needham High School students, provide good sportsmanship awards, support Youth Services programs and reach out to those in need through a local trauma fund.
“Candace is a volunteer and a shining example of a person who makes a difference in the lives of others,” Patricia Forde said of the 2012 award recipient.
Garlick said that calling someone a “good person” was Patrick Forde’s strongest endorsement.
“What he would say to all of us is, ‘Candace is a good person!’ and that’s all you’d have to hear, and you knew it was someone you could trust and you knew it was someone who was doing the right thing for the right reason and it was someone who was about this community, because that’s what he was about all the time,” Garlick said.
During her acceptance of the award, Chase thanked all the students who had participated in the club over the years, saying, “Thank you so much for giving me a place where I could do the thing I love to do the most.”
As for why Chase has stayed involved with the group, she said it was about more than the Japanese anime for which the club is named.
“I like anime, but it’s not why I show up every week,” she said. “From my years as a quilter—and then as a quilting teacher—as a late-blooming college student—because I graduated from college in 1999—to my years as a graphic designer, as an adult ed instructor and as a substitute teacher at the high school, the thread that ties it all together for me is the students. The Anime Club kids are the present—they’re the now—their willingness to work to reach our goals has given us not only a space where young people are welcomed, respected and valued but also the opportunity to give back to the community and to the organizations that they value.”
Last year, the club raised enough money through their high school bake sale to send $450 to support American Red Cross’s tsunami relief efforts in Japan. The group also donated $325 to the Needham Library, a sort of thank-you for hosting them each week. And they have been able to pay their own way to and from the annual Anime Boston convention, Chase said.
“The kids that are here, if I’ve done my work well, when they leave here, they know that there’s a place where there’s respect for young adults in the world and that they should expect it, that it’s possible to work out your differences through talking and that you build the person you want to be every day, one decision at a time,” Chase said.
Chase said she was hoping to develop a mentoring program that pairs current high school students with club alumni who are now in college, “to help the kids who are still in high school navigate through the choppy emotional waters of the college transition.”
Past recipients of the Patrick C. Forde Good Person Memorial Award include: John Hrones, 2011; Bill Dermody, 2010; Clyde “Solar Sam” Weihe, 2009; Connie Barr, 2008; and Richard Remnitz, 2007.