When Dorothy wanted to leave Oz and return home, all she had to do was click together her ruby red slippers. Unfortunately for many children in the real world, going home is not always that easy.
Yearly, nearly 700,000 children are abused or neglected and more than 400,000 are in foster care on any given day. While the ideal situation is for children to be at home with their parents, it is not always possible. Factors such as alcoholism, drug use, violence and neglect create an unsafe environment and often make it necessary to remove a child from the home.
While a judge is the final decision maker regarding the placement of a child, CASA for Kids, Inc., helps to give the judge a better understanding of what the child’s needs are. A non-profit organization, CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) for Kids, Inc. serves both Sullivan and Hawkins counties as court-appointed child advocates.
“Our primary goal is to give a voice to children who don’t have a voice,” said Mary Kilpatrick, executive director. “One judge calls us his ‘eyes and ears’ because we see what is going on and report it back to the judge, which helps him to make a decision of what this child needs,” Mary explained. The organization helped 318 children in 2018. Volunteers meet with the child’s parents or guardian, schedule visits to the home, determine if the child’s needs are being met and make recommendations. “The judges just want as much information as they can get in order to make a good decision,” she added.
Being a volunteer with CASA for Kids, Inc. is both challenging and rewarding, according to Mary.
“This is not a volunteer opportunity for everybody. You often go into difficult situations,” she said. But making a difference in a child’s life makes it worthwhile to both the volunteers and the small staff of six that work at the offices in Kingsport, Bristol and Rogersville. “The staff members that work here have a passion for these children. Without passion, people would come and go,” she said.
Mary explained that although they are assigned cases by the juvenile court system, CASA for Kids, Inc., is not a government agency. The organization depends on donations from businesses, individuals, churches, several community chests, and organizations such as the United Way of Greater Kingsport, the United Way of Bristol, and the Hawkins County United Way.
Fundraising events, such as the upcoming 10th Annual Red Shoe Gala, provide a major portion of their funding. The event will be held on Saturday, Feb. 9 at the MeadowView Convention Center, where guests will be treated to an elegant dual entrée dinner. The evening will include the fun ‘Favorite Red Shoe Contest,’ where both men and women wear their favorite red shoes. A silent and live auction will be held, along with dancing and live entertainment. Hors d’oeuvres and cocktails kick off the event at 5:30 p.m., with the special dinner following at 6:45.
The Red Shoe Gala is named after the red shoes that Dorothy wore in “The Wizard of Oz.” Because truly, as Dorothy said, “There’s no place like home.”
For more information about the event, to purchase tickets ($125) or to donate an auction item, call Missy Sturgill at (423) 247-1161, ext. 3, or contact her at [email protected]