County Face: Mike Chasse of Presque Isle
Through the years Mike Chasse has realized the vital role that community plays in his life. Chasse, a resident of Presque Isle, is a member of the Presque Isle City Council and also serves on the Recreation and Parks Advisory Board and as president of Nordic Heritage Center’s Nordic Trails Festival. He knows what it’s like to receive personal support from fellow community members while also giving back.
Many days he helps out at his family’s Bike, Board and Ski shop, which his father and brother-in-law own on Main Street in Presque Isle. But long before that Chasse was a teenager who wanted to explore the world outside his hometown. After graduating from Presque Isle High School in 2000, he attended the University of Maine and earned a degree in electrical engineering. He moved to Foxboro, Mass., where he worked for an industrial control systems manufacturer.
He later moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, to work as a project manager and electrical engineer for Doppelmayr CTEC, a ski lift company. While in Utah, Chasse was an avid skier. On the slopes one day in March 2007, Chasse’s skis hit a bump in the trail and his head hit the ground hard. The impact caused him to become paralyzed from the neck down. Chasse spent four months recovering from his injuries in a Utah hospital before returning to Presque Isle.
“My family and my whole support network was back here,” Chasse said, about why he moved back to Presque Isle. “One of the biggest things I missed was the people and being so connected to a community.”
For the first year after coming back to Aroostook County, Chasse spent much of his time outdoors and figuring out how to adjust to life in a wheelchair. One challenge was not being able to participate in sports and outdoor activities in the same ways. But he credits his family and friends for making him feel welcome at home again. Though it was hard to become dependent on people for transportation and other daily activities, he has become more willing to ask for help and more inspired to help others in return.
Once he became involved with community organizations, Chasse found a greater sense of purpose and realized how much his community impacted him while growing up. Some of his recent endeavors include serving on the Library Building Committee and the Community Center Building Committee in Presque Isle.
“I’d always thought that I did all these things like skiing for the sport,” Chasse said. “But I now realize that it was always the people I did it with that made it so special.”
Chasse also strives to help those who face physical challenges similar to his own through his blog at www.quadomated.com. He started the blog in 2010 when he helped design and oversaw the building of the accessible home he now lives in. He uses the website to promote adaptive technologies and share stories about personal challenges and successes.
The Quadomated blog led to one of the most rewarding nights of Chasse’s life. On March 2, 2017, he went to Presque Isle High School thinking he was participating in a panel about overcoming adversity. Instead, he found several hundred people from the community who had formed a secret Facebook group to raise enough money for him to purchase a new wheelchair. The group had read his recent blog about fighting to get a new wheelchair within the complicated Medicare system and decided to take action.
“I would definitely like to thank the whole community for how much they believed in me, stood behind me and helped,” Chasse said.
Chasse describes his outlook on life as very positive.
“If there’s anything I’ve learned it’s that we need to appreciate the good things in life,” Chasse said. “It’s not always easy, but at the end of the day life is what you make it.”