News and Information from the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association

Field Notes

World’s Tallest Gingerbread Man

Dane County CASA, Madison, WI

On November 21, the unveiling of the world’s tallest gingerbread man raised funds for and awareness of Dane County CASA in Madison, WI. Created by community member Dave Bowden, with the support of a local construction company and many volunteers, the gingerbread man stood 26 feet tall. Festivities accompanying the unveiling included a gingerbread house decorating competition and public cookie decorating, with cookie-sale proceeds benefiting Dane County CASA.

smiling gingerbread man

Pittsburgh Steelers Tailgate Party

CASA of Allegheny County, Pittsburgh, PA

Thanks to longtime CASA volunteer Christine Arians, wife of Steelers’ Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians, CASA of Allegheny County hosted its 3rd annual Pittsburgh Steelers’ Tailgate Party last October at Heinz Field. Willie Parker, honorary chair, said, “It’s important to do something like this to help out kids. I will do anything for kids to bring a smile to their faces.” This year, the CASA program raised over $30,000, which will go directly to increasing service capacity.

Steelers Players
From left: Steelers players James Harrison, Mewelde Moore and Willie Parker were on hand to sign memorabilia and welcome guests.

Birthday Party Collects Dolls for CASA Children

CASA of Deep East Texas, Nacogdoches, TX

The morning after the annual And Justice is Served banquet held by CASA of Deep East Texas, Dawna Price told her daughter Emily about the keynote speaker, former youth in care Ashley Rhodes-Courter. “When Emily realized there were little children out there without mommies and daddies, she wanted to do something," Dawna recalls. So when Emily planned her 7th birthday party, she knew precisely what she wanted: a lot of dolls. They were not for her but for children who were removed from their homes. After her birthday party, Emily donated 45 dolls from the 20 guests. A relative from California, after hearing this news, went on to become a CASA volunteer in San Bernardino. Emily, who says she wants to become a CASA volunteer when she grows up, wrote a thank you note to children who came to her party and gave dolls, saying, "Tomorrow, a little girl will wake up smiling because of you."

Photo Courtesy of Christy Wooten/The Daily Sentinel

Talia Markham, Miss West Virginia 2009

WV CASA Association, Charleston, WV

CASA volunteer Talia Markham was crowned Miss West Virginia 2009 last June. She initiated her reign by announcing that her platform is breaking the cycle of child abuse and neglect. Markham hopes “to impact the lives of children through my school tour, increase awareness of the Child Protective Services needs legislatively and do my best to recruit more foster families and adoptive homes for those children looking for that ‘forever family.’” Markham got involved in the CASA program because her father, Circuit Judge Thomas Evans, saw the need for an extra opinion in the court room concerning the placement of children that have been abused or neglected.

Ms. West Virginia, Talia Markham

Wishes Fulfilled for CASA Youth

CASA of Orange County, Santa Ana, CA

CASA of Orange County held its annual holiday luncheon in December, this year featuring Dr. Phil and Robin McGraw as the keynote speakers. The event attracted a record 570 guests and also included a Michael Kors runway fashion show. Former CASA youth Sandy Phan, now 18, powerfully shared her story at the event and then was featured on the Dr. Phil Show the following week. “Our guests were so impressed by Dr. Phil and Robin’s evident passion and commitment to foster youth,” shared Greg Bradbard, executive director. The event attracted many new prospective volunteers and netted $165,000 for the CASA program and to fulfill wishes from children submitted by their advocates.

Dr. Phil and Robin with Mary Rhoda and Sandy Phan
From left: CASA volunteer Mary Roda, who was instrumental in helping Sandy Phan get into college and launched toward a successful adulthood, Phan, Dr. Phil and Robin McGraw

CASA Program and Symphony in Concert

La Porte County CASA/Harmony House, La Porte, IN

Over each of the past 15 years, LaPorte County CASA/Harmony House has held a fundraiser at a different venue with its own theme. This year, the program invited the LaPorte County Symphony to join them at their annual fundraiser. During the event, chamber groups provided music to entertain the 200 guests who enjoyed food and drink provided by local vendors as well as a raffle for a grand prize basket. In total, the event raised more than $22,000.

symphony photo

Kappa Alpha Theta Support

Parachute: Butler County CASA, Hamilton, OH

Members of Kappa Alpha Theta at Miami University of Oxford, OH, have been busy fundraising to help local abused and neglected children. They presented a check for $1,700 to Parachute: Butler County CASA recently, which will assist with the training and supervision of volunteer advocates. The women’s fraternity also hand-painted tote bags and made journals and puzzles for the program’s children. Executive Director Chris Schultz remarked, "We are so appreciative of the connection with the Thetas. Each year, fraternity members are enthusiastic about raising funds for our CASA program and genuinely interested in assisting the CASA children. Several Thetas have even enrolled in the CASA training and work as CASA advocates after they graduated."

Kappa Alpha Theta

Caring Friends Play Yard

CASA of Collin County, Inc., McKinney, TX

When CASA of Collin County purchased and moved into a new building in 2008, community volunteers and donors stepped up to ensure that CASA children would have a welcoming space for supervised visitation and therapeutic play. After an estimated 1,000 volunteer hours that included painting structures and the murals for the indoor and outdoor play spaces, the project was completed. The program hosted a dedication to thank JC Penney employees and the more than other 20 community partners who stepped forward to provide funds, labor and materials for this special play area. Susan Etheridge, CASA of Collin County executive director, said, “Without the generosity of JC Penney, 3e McKinney, Grimes Construction, Dr. M. Akram Khan (medical director of the Center for Preventive Medicine & Cardiac Center of Texas) and many others, this would not have been possible.”

Play Yard Group
From left: Randy Roland, CASA of Collin County board president, Lisa Smith, JC Penney IT operations manager, who coordinated the JC Penney volunteers, Hon. David Dorman, CASA capital campaign chairman, and Larry Robinson, executive director of 3e McKinney


GAL volunteer Helen Marotto, a real estate practitioner in Hampstead, NC, was one of five winners chosen by the National Association of Realtors as a Realtor Magazine 2009 Good Neighbor Awards winner. Marotto was selected for her commitment to children in foster care. Inspired to help children after one of her grandchildren survived a rare genetic disorder, she has been a volunteer with the Fifth Judicial District GAL Program in Wilmington, NC, for the past 10 years. Besides winning a $10,000 grant for her program, she was profiled in the November-December 2009 issue of Realtor Magazine. This profile inspired several of her colleagues to become volunteers.Geimer and Marottos
From left: Sara Geimer, chair of the National Association of Realtors’ Good Neighbor Awards, Helen Marotto and her husband, Phil

The 2009 Governor’s Lifetime Achievement Service Award was given by West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin to Harrison County CASA volunteer Karen Betler. The award recognizes Betler’s significant contributions to the Mountain State through her volunteer efforts. An advocate for almost 12 years who has served 24 children, Betler has logged more than 9,000 miles and devoted over 3,000 hours of service. According to the program’s director, Charlene Kenney, Betler has also been instrumental in raising awareness around the community by recruiting fellow volunteers and board members, assisting with grant presentations and fundraising: "Our CASA program is stronger and better because of Karen Betler and her belief in our mission."

Betler, Governor, and WV First Lady
From left: West Virginia First Lady Gayle Manchin, Karen Betler and Governor Joe Manchin

Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel presented Child AbuseWatch’s first-ever Child Advocate of the Year Award to Vicki Tucci, Esq., circuit director of the GAL Program–15th Judicial Circuit, FL. Mayor Frankel spoke about her respect and support of the GAL program and of Tucci's role in particular. As of November, the GAL program’s 350+ volunteer advocates had represented 2,200 children in 2009. Tucci is a member of the Florida Bar and the Palm Beach County Bar Association and teaches at South University.

Tucci and Mayor Frankel
Vicki Tucci, Esq., and Mayor Lois Frankel of Palm Beach, FL

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