“One of the things Court Appointed Special Advocates does with the money we make is train volunteers to work with these kids to go represent them in the court system,” Metzger said. “The volunteers look out for the best interest of the kids. They make sure the kids are safe and in a good home.”
CASA began in the late 1970s after Seattle Judge David Soukup noticed a reoccurring problem in his courtroom.
“... When you’re involved with a child and you’re trying to decide what to do to facilitate that child’s growth into a mature and happy adult, you don’t feel like you have sufficient information to allow you to make the right decision,” Soukup asserted on CASA’s website. “You can’t walk away and leave them at the courthouse at 4 o’clock. You wonder, ‘Do I really know everything I should? Have I really been told all the different things? Is this really right?”
Soukup attained funding to recruit and train community volunteers to advocate for the children in the courtroom. CASA has since then transformed into a nationwide group with a chapter in each state. According to Metzger, the chapters are beginning to move into separate counties.
Bradley County’s CASA chapter is about to hold its third annual Light of Hope Moonlight Walk in honor of Melisha Gibson. Gibson was only 4 years old when she died due to severe child abuse in Cleveland. In an era before social media, her story went nationwide as the community banded together to change the child abuse laws in Tennessee and across the nation.
“What we ask anyone to do, whether as an individual or in the club, is to come out and walk,” Metzger said. “Make a donation, put a team together and support us.”
The walk will begin at 7 p.m. on Oct. 11, 2012. Participants will meet on the Greenway at Raider Drive. The walk will end at the prayer garden at the Church of God headquarters. Brochures for the Moonlight Walk urge people to, “Give a child a voice.”
Individual participants can enter for $25. Families may enter for $50 and students can participate at $15. Sponsorships are offered at the bronze ($75), silver, ($125) and gold ($250) levels. Anyone may become a bronze ($500), silver ($750), or gold ($1,000) partner.
Information on the walk can be found by contacting Suzanne Wisdom, executive director, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 423-716-1844.
“The chapter in Bradley County began in 2008. That year we worked with about 95 kids,” Metzger said. “This year we have already passed that number at this point in the year — so that kind of tells you the need we have.”
Richard Hughes, a Bradley County public defender, said there are a lot of local kids going through the court system.
“One of the things CASA does is work with the school system to make sure those kids are attending class. ... The good thing about CASA is the volunteers obviously have a passion for this work,” Hughes said. “They are able to spend a lot more time with the families and the child.”
Kiwanis secretary Kathy Austin suggested participants with children park in the Church of God headquarters parking lot. According to Austin, a daylight trek to the beginning of the walk would be better than arriving at the end of the designated course and having to walk back in the dark.