Nonprofit agency that advocates for abused and neglected kids is looking for super heroes
By Jill Draper
If you’ve ever thought it would be fun to be a superhero, here’s your chance. A nonprofit agency that advocates for abused and neglected kids is looking for people to costume up for its annual 5K run/walk and kids fun run on Sunday, June 24. At the same time, they’re looking for volunteers to interact with the kids they serve.
There’s usually an 18 to 24-month period before children who are removed from a bad situation are placed in a safe and permanent home, says Angie Blumel, president and CEO of Jackson County CASA, which stands for court appointed special advocate. During that period, children might live with a relative or foster parent as their situation is examined and winds through the local court system.
“The system can be quite hectic,” Blumel says. “But research shows that children who have a consistent source of support in their lives are far less likely to be abused again or to reenter family court.”
The CASA volunteer’s job is to meet with a child (or family of children) and others involved in a case and report what they learn so the judge can make the best decision about where the child should live and what educational, therapeutic and medical services are needed.
In Jackson County there are 2,900 kids right now who are under court protection. “That’s the size of two or three grade schools combined,” Blumel says. “We’re one of the largest CASA programs in the U.S. and have nearly 400 active volunteers, but we could use twice that many. Our goal is to have a three-person team for each child: a CASA staff attorney, a CASA case supervisor and a CASA volunteer who is the expert on that child.”
The CASA SuperHero 5K Run/Walk is one way the agency raises funds for its goals. In addition to Jackson County, Mo., the event helps fund CASA of Johnson & Wyandotte Counties.
The run/walk begins at 8 a.m. in Corporate Woods, 9401 Indian Creek Parkway, Overland Park. A kids fun run follows at 9:15 a.m. and participants will receive a superhero cape and medal. Well-behaved dogs on a leash are welcome and often dress up as well. While costumes are encouraged for everyone, they’re not required.
“It’s a really fun event,” says Blumel, who estimates there will be 800 to 1,000 participants and onlookers.
Formerly employed by the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault, she lives in South Kansas City with her husband and two dogs, a Great Pyrenees and a beagle mix. She joined CASA a year ago in May, and notes that during 2017 the organization served 1,250 children—the busiest year yet.
“My first year has been wonderful, largely due to our CASA volunteers and the staff,” she says. “But it would be more wonderful if each child could be assigned a volunteer.”
Visit the organization’s website to register for the June 24 run/walk or to learn more about volunteering. Jackson County CASA has seven training sessions per year; the next one begins onJune 12. Volunteers must be 18 or older and must pass a background check. Other than that, no special skills or education are needed. See casakc.org or call 816-984-8208.