The sound of jazz filled the halls of Chattahoochee Country Club on Saturday evening as crowds gathered to honor and remember some of North Georgia’s selfless child supporters.
The annual CASAblanca event, benefiting Hall-Dawson Court Appointed Special Advocates, included a dinner, auction and awards honoring some of CASA’s biggest supporters over the last year.
CASA is a nonprofit that works to ensure abused and neglected children have the right to a safe, permanent home, director Connie Stephens said.
“No child deserves less,” Stephens said. “We have over 150 CASA volunteers in Hall and Dawson who are trained to promote and protect the best interest of children involved in the courts through absolutely no fault of their own.”
Last year, CASA served 100 percent of the children who entered the local court system. Its volunteers advocated for 511 children, 240 younger than age 5, Stephens said.
Approximately 70 percent of these children were affected by their parents’ substance abuse, according to data from the organization. Nearly 95 percent were victims of neglect, while 10 percent were also victims of physical abuse and 7 percent were victims of sexual abuse.
“We are for the children who are abused, neglected or abandoned,” Stephens said. “Those moved from their homes and placed in a stranger’s home. We are for the children who need counseling, who don’t know their fathers, whose parents are drug addicts. We are for the children who are afraid to go to sleep at night, because their nightmares are real.”
Saturday night’s event collected funds to support the program while recognizing honored guests Gov. Nathan Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal and presenting the first lady with the Juvenile Justice Award.
The nonprofit also recognized several CASA employees, volunteers and supporters who lost their lives in the last year, including late program director Lisa McCarthy and secretary of the board Diana Cindea, posthumous recipients of the Justice for Children Award. Late CASA supervisor Cory Buckley received the Champion for Children Award.
The event also included an address from two foster parents, now adoptive parents, Derreck and Amy Booth. The Booth family includes three adopted children whose birth parents were unable to care for them. They credit Hall-Dawson CASA with saving the lives of two of their children.
Amy Booth said throughout their adoption process, CASA was their “sanity.”
“CASA is for the children,” she said. “I can’t tell you how much our heart goes out to all of you who helped us. Your job is thankless and difficult, but we appreciate you.”