Cass Wendell was raised in small town Montana. To be a bit more specific, Cass grew up in a bar stool in Montana’s very own LaHood Park Steakhouse. Grounded by her parents, the proprietors of LaHood, Cass lived and breathed the stories of the people that were regulars there.
“It’s an interesting childhood, forsure.” Laughed Cassidy, “I mean I was handing out cold beers from the coolers before I knew what beer actually was.” LaHood was in Cardwell, Montana. A fire came through and wiped LaHood from the community back in 2021, well after the Wendell’s had ownership of the restaurant. Cardwell is a small town in Jefferson County. “My parents bought the restaurant site unseen. It was always my dad's dream to live in the west. He was fascinated by the way of life, culture, the cowboy atmosphere - I mean all of it.” The sale went through and the Wendell’s packed up their home and moved a few states over. “I was so young. I don't know anything else to be home other than Montana.” Which sounds exactly like what her dad had in mind.
You may know Cass - founder of #GIRLGETAFTERIT or maybe even from her OG world as the Wellness Rookie. Truth is, you feel connected to Cass in a way, right off the bat, that is a bit unique. Potentially, at first, it’s a slight familiarity with who you think she is and what she’s about. Then, quickly, you realize you don’t know her at all. Cass, in a subtle way, takes up the room. An energy that feels like it’s been there, time and time again - and shortly after a brief conversation you learn she’s really no rookie at all.
The premiss of the Wellness Rookie came from Cass's love for health and wellness. She believes that your physical health is a direct reflection of your mental health. Being a multi-sport athlete in high school and then transitioning to a full-time college student wasn't easy. “I really wasn’t the healthiest when I was in college. I went to Washington State University, which definitely lives up to the hype of being a party school.” Cass shared, “I was the unhealthiest I've ever been. I was gaining weight and I knew that I was just really unhappy. At the time, denying the feeling and the problem was the only way I knew how to cope so I just kept down the same road.” It wasn't until graduating and landing a job working for the Montana State Bobcats athletic department that she began to feel like herself again. During this time, whether she knows it or not it's clear the Wellness Rookie was in the making. “It was dream job status, forsure. Working for the Bobcats, living back in Montana. It was amazing. In time though, and once I was settled in, I did feel like I was missing something, like I longed for a bit more.”
“I got a call from my mom, randomly, one evening. She mentioned that my dad had had a stroke - which honestly at the time, I didn’t even fully understand what that meant or what a stroke actually was. She calmly told me everything was fine but I should meet them at the hospital the next morning.” Cass tells this story with vigor - you know, so well, listening to her that it still isn’t easy. “The stroke really did end up being more serious, he was actually in a coma and from there it was really a tough road,” she shared. Some months and trying times later, Cass lost her dad. From that day on, devastation had a whole new meaning.
“Growing up, I was always with my dad,” Cassidy reminisced. “We were each other's person. He supported me in a way that I really grew to almost be reliant on. You name it, he was there with me, by my side, helping me.” You could sense and feel that although years had past, Cass still felt it all. “He pushed me and raised me up, really, to be the woman I am. Without him and all we built, I wouldn’t be Cass.”
Losing the greatest love you’ve ever felt, is unimaginable. For Cass, it happened before her life even really started. “I guess you could say that from that day on I decided I would never settle. Not for anything,” she recounted. “I can and never will find or feel that love ever again, but I do think that’s the point. Losing someone is the worst and hardest thing you’ll endure. Getting to the other side, that’s when you begin living - with them in mind - but you’re unstoppable.”
And she is. Cass has single handedly grown #GIRLGETAFTERIT. What started out as a need for community and a passion for wellness, has grown from one community in Bozeman, Montana to 15 across the country. All led by different women in each city. Cass helps and aids in hosting events online and in person. From ideation to execution, Cass has been the focal point of the business, the roots and the core - #GIRLGETAFTERIT is 100% bootstrapped by Cass. “It’s still a struggle everyday of balancing how to make it work but it’s my passion and my purpose. I know that.” Cass smiled, “I want there to be a GGAI in every city. I want every woman to feel they have a space in GGAI, a community, a place when maybe you thought you didn’t have one. It’s what GGAI became for me and I only hope we’re able to do that for others.”
To know Cass is to respect her. She’s a force to be reckoned with, one you’ll be reading about for years to come, creating and building along the way. After hearing her story, learning about what really makes her who she is, it's clear she's every ounce of goodness her dad was. Striving for more, not settling for anything less than what you want and most importantly, relentlessly chasing something.
Community-builder sits at the top of her resume - in nice bold letters. I do hope she sees it's so much more than that. Cass makes room at her table for everyone. Not one woman left behind and that's something to be proud of. I left meeting Cass truly saying, girl you done did get after it.