Pierce County Juvenile Court’s CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) Program will be holding a free event at LeMay - America's Car Museum, on April 28 at 5:30 p.m. to celebrate the amazing work of their 230 volunteers, to connect with new volunteers, and to raise awareness about the organization's life-shaping impact on foster kids. Designed to connect with men, an underrepresented group in Pierce CASA's volunteer roster, the event will have a true tailgate feel.
Guests will mix and mingle around the museum's muscle car exhibit, munch on game-day snacks, try their hand at a tailgate game or two, and hear from guest speaker Becky Vinson. Becky was just a 26-year-old single mom when she brought future pro-football player Jimmy Graham out of the system and into her home. Guests will get to hear her and Jimmy's story but will also learn about a way they can help foster kids without becoming adoptive or foster parents. Early responses to the event have been very positive, with Becky's promo video on Pierce County CASA's Facebook page already receiving over 7,500 views.
“We've tried to make it easy to learn about and RSVP for the event online at www.piercecasaevents.org and we're going to do everything in our power to make the event fun and memorable, from moving video presentations to a Jimmy Graham jersey giveaway," said Janice Bridges, Pierce County Juvenile Court’s Dependency Unit supervisor, who noted that this is all aimed at one thing: helping the public, and men in particular, grasp the impact that they could have on a foster child's life as a CASA.
A CASA is a volunteer who plays a special role in the life of a foster child. Presiding Juvenile Court Judge Susan Serko explains what CASAs do. "CASAs are able to get out and see the children in their homes, foster homes, schools, and to be present when the parents and children have family time."
Superior Court Judge Kitty-Ann van Doorninck expands on the value CASAs bring to children in the foster system. "In my experience, CASAs are the most independent people in our process. Their only agenda is that the child's best interests are being considered and served. Put that together with their training and their lack of a caseload, and it's easy to see why CASAs nearly always bring information and recommendations that help me make better decisions and result in better outcomes for the child."
The CASA Ultimate Tailgate event is not a traditional fundraiser. The goal is to raise awareness that the CASA community hopes will translate into more volunteers. "While I very much appreciate each and every one of our 230 CASA volunteers, I also look forward to the day when we have 400 CASAs," said TJ Bohl, Administrator at Pierce County Juvenile Court. "We simply have too many vulnerable children in our county that need advocates to help them get into safe, healthy living situations."
Named Pierce County's 2016 Volunteer Organization of the Year, Pierce County CASA began in 1983 with six CASAs. Since then, that number has grown to 230 CASAs currently serving roughly 550 children. The organization hopes to double their volunteer team to reach the roughly 950 foster kids in our county who do not yet have a CASA advocating for them.
Janice Bridges, Juvenile Court
Libby Catalinich, Pierce County Communications Director