By Max Goodwin
A carnival scheduled on Sunday, June 12, at Faulkner’s Ranch will provide more than fun and games for local kids. It also will raise funds for a program that pairs adult volunteers with abused and neglected children as they go through the court system.
Jackson County CASA or court-appointed special advocates is sponsoring the carnival that will include a zipline, mechanical bull, goats to pet, pony rides, a corn cannon, wagon rides, a stagecoach bounce house, face painting and more from 1-4 pm. Tickets are $25 for children and $15 for adults. A CASA kid can be sponsored to attend for $30. All ticket holders are invited to a free lunch beforehand from 11:30-1:30 at Longview Lake.
An annual event, the CASA carnival is being held in south KC for the first time in 17 years, according to Angie Blumal, CEO of Jackson County CASA. A resident of the Red Bridge area herself, she says the event provides a fun day for kids who are going through a hard time and raises funds to recruit, train and support more CASA volunteers like Bill Nelson.
Nelson is familiar to most around Martin City for maintaining facilities at Lutheran High School and Calvary school and church for the past 15 years, but he wanted to do more to help local kids. About seven years ago he became a CASA volunteer and has helped advocate for the best interests of 16 kids during his time with the organization.
Even with a busy schedule and working a full-time job, Nelson always manages to find a few hours each week for his CASA responsibilities. He had known the effects of child abuse through an extended family situation and that led him to become a volunteer to help provide a voice for kids going through it themselves.
Seeing the difference it makes in a child’s life is enough of a reward to keep volunteering, he says. “I grew up with a safe and happy childhood. That’s something you expect every kid to have, but not every child has that.”
CASA volunteers are supported in their work by a team of social workers, therapists and other professionals who get to know the child involved in a case and provide a judge with critical information to help them make important decisions for the future.
While social workers, therapists and judges have a variety of responsibilities across many cases, a CASA volunteer focuses more directly on how the child under court protection is doing.
Jackson County CASA experienced a decline in volunteers during the pandemic, but that trend has reversed lately and they have seen a recent increase of volunteers. But more are still needed. This year Jackson County CASA expects to serve about 1,250 kids, but that’s only half the number of kids under court protection in the county. The rest still need advocates and the organization needs more volunteers to serve them.
“We know that when a child has a CASA they are less likely to experience re-abuse, they are more likely to find a safe permanent home quickly, they do better in school, and better in resiliency factors as well,” says Blumal.
For anybody interested in volunteering as a Jackson County CASA, the carnival on June 12 is an opportunity to support the organization and learn more about it. People don’t need any specific skills or qualifications to volunteer as an advocate, say both Blumel and Nelson.
“You just need to care, to really care about children and what happens in their lives and to have a heart for serving kids,” Blumel says.
For more information visit jacksoncountycasa-mo.org or call 816-984-8200.