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CASAblanca Tailgate Party to fund court program for foster children
Carolyn Roberts looks at items up for auction Oct. 22, 2016, during the CASAblanca gala at the Chattahoochee Country Club in Gainesville. Attendees could bid on collectibles, family day passes, food-related items and other items. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Amid the red, orange and blue sure to be present at a tailgate party Friday night, Janet Walden will be inviting people to join Team CASA, the Court-Appointed Special Advocates. Walden is the group’s executive director.

The event is the annual fundraising event for Hall-Dawson CASA, a program of volunteers giving advice to Juvenile Court judges for children in foster care. The theme is a casual tailgate, where attendees are encouraged to wear their favorite team colors.

Along with a silent auction, CASA will be presenting two awards. One is the Champion for Children Award to Cathy Drerup, the former executive director of Challenged Child and Friends, for “her legacy in our community of working with children,” Walden said.

CASAblanca Tailgate Party

When: 7-10 p.m. Oct. 20

Where: Chattahoochee Country Club, 3000 Club Drive, Gainesville

How much: $75; ticket price includes dinner, beer and wine. More than 10 tickets were available as of 5 p.m. Monday

More info: 770-531-1964,

“She is amazing. She has more patience and more energy than anybody I’ve ever met, and we’re just really excited to celebrate what she’s done for Gainesville and our community,” Walden said.

The Impact Award will go to local foster parent Kate Lovell, with the honor “celebrating the work that she’s doing with the kids in our community,” Walden said.

Outside of Drerup's work with Challenged Child and Friends, which has now changed its name to Sisu, she also served as a mentor to other nonprofit directors in the area and is a former foster parent.

“It was sort of a spiritual calling for us, where a situation presented itself that asked that question: Can your house be available? Can your family be a family for other children?” Drerup said.

In her 12 years of fostering children, Drerup said children aren’t looking for the grander and more expensive things. They want support, guidance and continual love, she said.

“I think what became so real was how children were seeking consistency. They were seeking the regular things in life, routines, the understanding that adults would be the grown-ups and they could be the kids,” Drerup said.

Drerup said CASAs were referred to as the children’s “court friend,” a person that “always will speak up for you, that you can tell what you need and how you feel.”

“It’s important for the community to realize that these children have unique needs, and they need to feel that someone is representing them,” Drerup said.

One of CASA’s former foster kids will also have her story told at the event.

“Her story will be told by her CASA volunteer, and she is an amazing story of resilience. She was in 24 different placements from the time she was 7 until she was adopted when she was 16, and it’s an amazing story to hear,” Walden said.

The event is at 7 p.m. Friday at the Chattahoochee Country Club in Gainesville.

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