FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — Adjusting to life in Alaska is rarely easy, but for Kiara Cassell and her family, it's been easier with the support of thousands of fans on YouTube who've been there throughout the journey.
Kiara Cassell, her husband, Army Staff Sgt. Desmond Cassell, their children, 7-year-old Decorey and 2-year-old Jericho, and their dog, Kacey, have been documenting their time in Alaska with daily video blogs, called "vlogs," on their YouTube channel: "The Life of the Cassells."
The vlogs show Alaska through the eyes of a military family. There are videos of road trips around the state, birthday parties, family visits and family time at home as well as plenty of regular, everyday life, such as shopping trips, cooking meals and cleaning the house.
Kiara Cassell got the idea for the channel while she was pregnant with Jericho. She was watching a lot of other vlogs on YouTube and saw it might be a fun way to document her memories.
"I told (Desmond), 'Let's record our daily vlogs while I'm pregnant so I could have this memory,'" she said. "And after that, we started growing it and started meeting people through YouTube. It's for the memories and because other people wanted to watch us, which is pretty cool."
Their more than 500 videos collectively have a million views that have come from all across the world, and their channel has nearly 9,000 followers. She said people recognize them out in public.
Desmond Cassell said he likes the project because it'll serve as a digital scrapbook for his kids to remember a time that may fade as they get older.
"I was telling my son that you may not remember everything now, but you can look back on it and always have those memories," Desmond Cassell said. "I was an Army brat and I was in Germany with my family overseas and I don't remember a lot, so the pictures — the few that I have — is all that I have. It's for memories, and it's cool."
Unlike high-profile YouTube vlogs that are polished into seemingly perfect lives, The Life of the Cassells has a charming authenticity to it. The Cassells decided to document their entire experience, both the good times and the bad, such as fights, tears and anxiety.
That's been particularly true for Kiara Cassell. Unlike her husband, who grew up moving around in a military family, Kiara Cassell grew up in New York close to her extended family.
She talks about missing her family in many of her videos, as well as the frustration that in the two years they've been in Alaska, her family has yet to visit.
In a video posted in April, she talked about feeling overwhelmed about not having her family close.
"I make these videos so people out there can relate to what I'm going through and I know I'm not the only one in this world that feels like this," she said with tears in her eyes. "And I just want you guys know that you have somebody here to talk to if you need to."
Kiara Cassell said it's been particularly popular with other wives who are going through the same challenges with military life. In the comments of the video, other military wives offer their support, saying they've been through similar experiences.
The couple said they didn't know what to expect out of Alaska, so they've also made videos for other families who will be moving to Alaska, such as videos of local stores and what life is like on base. Kiara Cassell said working on the YouTube channel has helped her find her own voice and become more confident.
"I see a lot of people relate to a lot of things that we're going through, and I want to be that voice for them because before I was really quiet, I would keep everything bottled up inside, but now if I feel some type of way I pick up the camera and talk and let them know they're not alone," she said.
On Sunday, the family published a retrospective of 2016 that included among dozens of snippets, Jericho's first time in the pool, a picturesque sunset swarmed by mosquitoes and a trip to the Halloween store where Decorey was frightened by a clown mask.
The family has one year left in their three-year assignment to Fort Wainwright, and Desmond Cassell says he can't wait to get out and see more of Alaska. He said on the list is whale watching and dog mushing. Kiara said she hopes her family will finally decide to make the trek up to Alaska.
"It's probably going to be our last summer and we have to make the most of it," Desmond Cassell said.
But he said before moving to Alaska he had a list of places that he would like to settle with his family, and that after a few years here that Alaska is now on that list, too.
But regardless of where they move, Kiara Cassell said they plan to continue filming and sharing their lives with their fans.
"Without them, I don't know how I would have been out here," she said.
Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com
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