by Tony Moore
The Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program is the national philanthropy of Kappa Alpha Theta, and it has a vitally important mission: to train volunteers to represent abused and neglected children, with the goal of finding the children safe environments in which to thrive.
The Cumberland Country chapter of CASA recently celebrated its 16th year of fruitful partnership with its annual Light of Hope swearing-in celebration, held as part of Child Abuse Prevention Month. And in attendance were Dickinson Thetas past and present.
“I fell in love with the organization when I realized just how many children go through the system and how they don't always have someone who is always there for them,” says Elizabeth Smith ’18, Kappa Alpha Theta of Dickinson’s CEO, who has been interning with CASA for a year. “I've been able to see just how important CASAs are to both the children and the judges. Their work truly is beneficial in the courtroom, and rulings have been swayed because of the CASA's opinion.”
Also on hand was Molly Talley ’89, an advisor to the local Theta chapter, and Jenn DeBalko ’05, the executive director of the Pennsylvania CASA program, who has been working with CASA since her sophomore year at Dickinson.
“I thought interning for Cumberland County CASA would be a great way to build a stronger connection between Theta and the local community, and I saw the power of a volunteer to positively impact the life of an abused and neglected child,” she says, noting that the state organization oversees 19 local CASA programs serving 24 counties across Pennsylvania. “I am inspired to help these programs ... so that all children in Pennsylvania can experience the comfort of having a CASA volunteer advocating for their best interest through the intimidating journey through the courts and child welfare system.”
Impressed by what she's seen so far, Smith is considering also working with CASA in the future.
“It's amazing to see the wonderful work that these volunteers do and how big of an impact they can have on a child's life and future,” she says, “I really believe in the power of the program and all of the incredible things it does, and I would love to be a CASA when I settle down.”
Published May 23, 2017