By Raiza Giorgi

The One805 Kick Ash Bash allowed 12-year-old Cassidy Sweetland of Solvang to meet celebrities Ellen DeGeneres and Katy Perry, but the highlight of the event for her was singing as part of the Santa Barbara Youth Ensemble Theater and supporting two friends who lost family members in the Montecito mudslide.

“I was definitely nervous singing in front of so many people, but being able to support my friends was a great feeling. I know about being in a fire situation, and it was scary and makes you realize how important family and friends are, more than possessions,” Cassidy said.

Cassidy Sweetland of Solvang, at far left, was excited to meet Santa Barbara native Katy Perry along with other members of the Santa Barbara Youth Ensemble Theater group at the One805 Kick Ash Bash.

The Solvang Elementary School seventh-grader was at Camp Whittier in July with her grandmother and brother when the Whittier Fire broke out. They had only minutes to escape, wearing just their bathing suits and flip-flops.

After the mudslides on Jan. 9, she found out that the families of two of her fellow ensemble members had been devastated. Julia Riskin lost her mother, Rebecca; and Lauren Cantin, whose rescue became famous, lost two of her family members. She and her mother were injured while her father Dave was killed, and her brother Jack’s body has yet to be found.

Twenty-one people lost their lives that day and thousands more were displaced as their homes were damaged or destroyed, or their businesses were closed until roads could be reopened and damage repaired.

“The last few months have been life-changing for me, and I want to help people that have been affected. I hope through performing we can all heal,” Cassidy said.

Lauren, 14, was a featured soloist singing “God Bless America” and received a standing ovation. Later she was joined onstage by the two first responders who got her to safety.

Two other Santa Ynez Valley kids, Brielle Saarloos and Vera Sieck, are also part of youth ensemble and were able to perform that day.

More than 2,000 emergency responders in addition to other community members turned out at Ursula and Patrik Nesbitt’s Bella Vista Ranch and Polo Club in Summerland for the Kick Ash Bash.

Cassidy, right, and her friends also got to meet Ellen DeGeneres.

The six-hour concert and celebration featured music from Alan Parsons & Friends, Katharine McPhee, Dishwalla, Kenny Loggins, Richard Marx, and Wilson Phillips, with Dennis Miller acting as emcee.

The event raised nearly $2 million, which will help fund emergency equipment and survivor relief, for the Santa Barbara Firefighters Alliance, Santa Barbara County Fire and Sheriff’s departments, Santa Barbara Police and Fire departments, and the California Highway Patrol. Direct Relief will distribute the survivor-aid funding.

Cassidy said she and other members of the Santa Barbara Youth Ensemble Theater are looking forward to performing in their version of “Les Miserables” on May 19 and 20 at The Lobero Theater in Santa Barbara.

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