In Cleveland and Bradley County, an organization that takes this responsibility personally is the Court Appointed Special Advocates, best known as CASA.
Its vision is direct, unconditional and desperately needed. In the words of program director Suzanne Wisdom, “The mission of CASA is to find safe, permanent homes for children in need by training and supporting community volunteers.”
CASA’s name is familiar to most within our hometown. It is the same organization that each year hosts the emotional Melisha Gibson Moonlight Walk on the Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway. The candlelight ceremony assembles hundreds of local residents who share a heartbreaking memory — that of a little 4-year-old girl whose voice was not heard, and subsequently whose life ended tragically and unnecessarily.
CASA works to preserve our memories of little Melisha and to speak on behalf of other little ones just like her who cannot speak for themselves.
But like any nonprofit organization that works for the betterment of our community through the good work of volunteers, CASA must raise funds to sustain its work.
One such fundraiser is coming Saturday night.
It is the festive 2013 Red Shoe Gala, a lighthearted evening whose proceeds support the most serious of causes.
To be held at the Old Woolen Mill at 445 Church St. — the site of the historic Hardwick Woolen Mills building — the gala is traditionally CASA’s largest fundraiser of the year.
Here’s how it works. The red shoe theme represents Dorothy’s shoes from the cinema classic, “The Wizard of Oz,” and their role in the journey to find her home. This year’s gala will get under way at 6 p.m.
The popular fundraiser will feature a silent auction, live music early and a DJ later, beverages and food. In keeping with the red shoe theme, attendees are encouraged to wear red shoes and the “best” red shoes will be selected in several categories by a panel of local personalities.
Categories will include Sassiest, Funniest, Most Original and Most Daring.
Corporate and community sponsorships are still available. Tickets can be purchased by calling 716-1844 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting the organization’s social media account at email@example.com.
Additional information about CASA or the Red Shoe Gala can be obtained through any of the same contacts.
Community donations and fundraisers help CASA to recruit, train and supervise volunteers who serve as advocates for the best interests of children who come to the attention of the Bradley County court system due to abuse or neglect. CASA recently expanded its operations to aid children in Polk County as well.
Saturday’s intent is to have fun. But its long-term goal is to help sustain the heartfelt work of CASA volunteers.
In Wisdom’s words, “We can make a real difference in the lives of children at risk, and statistics show that children who have access to a special advocate are less likely to languish in long-term care and more likely to receive the services they need to thrive in a safe, permanent home.”
CASA is an invaluable organization.
And like any nonprofit, its outreach is reciprocal. CASA helps the community, but it relies on the community for help.