Editor's note: This week, the Banner is reviewing the top stories of 2017.
When a gunman opened fire on the crowd at a country music festival in Las Vegas on Sunday, Oct. 1, the ripples from that catastrophic act of violence spread out across the nation and around the world — and reached Bennington County.
Sandy Casey, an East Dorset native and 2000 Burr and Burton Academy graduate, was among the 58 people killed when a heavily armed shooter opened fire from a hotel window at the Mandalay Bay casino.
Students at Burr and Burton were among the first to find out, at a previously scheduled morning assembly, that an alumna of the school had died in the shooting. Word spread slowly at first, and then through social media and the news media, that a daughter of the Northshire was among the victims.
What the world learned over the next several days, leading up to and including a well-attended and moving funeral service at the United Church of Dorset and East Rupert, was that Sandy Casey was a special person who had already given much in her 35 years, and had more to give.
Among her family, teachers and friends, Sandy was known for her good-natured and goofy sense of humor, for her broad, bright smile and her infectious energy. She played basketball at Burr and Burton, then went to the College of St. Joseph in Rutland and Assumption College in Worcester, Mass., to pursue her dream of becoming a special education teacher.
Her school district reeled from the loss. Her friends described her as loyal and generous. Northshire residents said her character reflected the values of her parents, Steven and Theresa Casey, and the larger extended Casey family throughout the area.
At the service, Casey's fiance, Chris Willemse, was among those offering readings and personal remembrances.
"This loss is huge. But during this time I learned what family really means," Willemse said. "She taught me what it meant to love her parents," he said. "I gained a mother and a father out of this."
So it wasn't a surprise when donations came pouring in — first to a GoFundMe account established by a friend to pay for funeral expenses, and then to a scholarship fund established by this newspaper in her honor.
To date, that effort has collected more than $4,000 in donations that are being used to endow a college scholarship for an area student who embodies Casey's values and character. Donations can be made at https://www.gofundme.com/sandycaseyscholarshipfund or by sending a check to the Sandy Casey Scholarship Fund, in care of the Bennington Banner, 425 Main St., Bennington, VT 05201. Donations are tax deductible.
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