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SWR softball field project to honor Melissa Marchese

Everyone channels their grief differently when dealing with the loss of someone they care about. Shoreham-Wading River sophomore Lindsay Cahill is releasing her pain over losing a softball teammate one swing of the hammer at a time.

The 15-year-old plans to construct helmet cubbies and a bat rack at the school’s new softball field as part of her Girl Scout Gold Award Project. If approved by the Suffolk County Girl Scouts on Oct. 10, construction of the rack could begin as early as mid-October and would coincide with the district’s renovation of the field — which will be named in honor of Melissa Marchese, who died in a car crash on the eve of her high school graduation this past June.

Lindsay, who has been in the Shoreham-Wading River Troop 1540 since she was in kindergarten, said she had her heart set on pursuing a Girl Scout gold project even before the tragedy occurred June 13.

Her mother, 10-year troop leader Jodi Cahill, said the “rigorous” assignment is equivalent to an Eagle Scout project and requires the Scout to partner with community agencies.

“It’s basically the highest achievement you can get in Girl Scouts,” she said.

According to the Girl Scouts website, a minimum of 80 hours is suggested to earn the Girl Scout Gold Award, which is only given to a Scout once they complete a gold project.

Lindsay started playing softball alongside Melissa when she was in the eighth grade. When Lindsay first tried out for the varsity team, she said Melissa, the team captain, approached her and made her feel welcome.

“Melissa really took her under her wing,” Ms. Cahill said. “Melissa went out of her way to make all kids on the team feel equally wonderful and accepted.”

Shoreham-Wading River sophomore Lindsay Cahill after receiving her Girl Scout Silver Award in June. Lindsay will construct helmet cubbies and a bat rack in honor of Melissa Marchese as part of her Girl Scout Gold project. (Courtesy photo)

She guided Lindsay through her first few weeks on the team. The duo bonded about being catchers and, on occasion, she’d drive Lindsay from Prodell Middle School to the high school for games.

“Just watching her play for the past two years, I’ve picked up on things to help improve myself as a catcher, hitter and overall player,” Lindsay said.

The idea for the project came about three weeks after the fatal crash, Lindsay said, as she thought about how her team always tripped over bats and helmets scattered across the dugout.

“When she had passed away … the idea just popped into my head: ‘Why don’t I do something that incorporates Mel?’ ” she said. “I had always thought of how when we were in games, we would go to other fields and they would be nice and neat and organized with bat and helmet racks. We had nothing.”

The project, completed and funded solely by Lindsay, would also include a replacement for a motivational sign that became a tradition on the field. The previous sign, which was given to the Marchese family after Melissa’s death, read “Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats Softball: Play hard or stay home.”

“It’s so we can keep her spirit alive in the dugout, because this was her passion,” Lindsay said.

Ms. Cahill said she’s proud of her daughter for finding a “positive way to work through her grief.”

The Shoreham-Wading River teen said Girl Scouts has taught her to pursue a project she’s passionate about. She’s motivated to tackle an assignment that shows how influential Melissa was to her as a new player.

“She was always the light in the room,” she said. “It’s nice to know that there’s something you can put your heart and soul into without getting angry and upset.”

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Top photo caption: Lindsay Cahill and Melissa Marchese on the softball field during Lindsay’s first year on the varsity team in 2018. (Courtesy photo)