CASA billboard for San Marcos.
The Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) chose San Marcos for its 20th Annual conference, which goes from Wednesday through Saturday at the City of San Marcos Conference Center.
The conference’s theme, “A CASA for Every Child” (“Un Voluntario de CASA Para Cada Niño”), is ambitious. Texas CASA hopes to double its number of volunteers with the goal of providing a volunteer for every child in the foster care system.
CASA has 5,648 volunteers, in 69 separate local programs, who stand up in court for abused children.
Joe Gagen, CEO of the Austin-based, Texas CASA said, “This tremendous growth in the number of volunteer advocates, known as Court Appointed Special Advocates has so far allowed nearly 20,000 foster children to have an adult speak up for their best interest in court and beyond.”
The conference will provide volunteer advocates and staff from across Texas resources for further education and collaboration. They will get to network with peers and consolidate their voices in the fight against child abuse.
“Volunteers represent the foundation on which local CASA programs grow and thrive,” Gagen said. “These volunteers posses extraordinary amounts of dedication, commitment and passion. That is why it is our pleasure to introduce Mary J. Peterson as our opening session keynote speaker for this year’s conference.”
Peterson will tell the story of her experience with two brothers who were victims of child abuse. Her committed relationship to the boys’ welfare led to their eventual graduation from college.
When asked what her experience meant to her, Peterson said, “I realized after becoming a CASA volunteer (I was) the anchor in (that) child’s life. Now that makes the difference.”
Other speakers at the event include State Representative and Chair of the House Human Services Committee Patrick Rose (D-Dripping Springs), San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz, and Mrs. Texas, Bonnie Hubert.
The conference will also feature presentations of the Volunteer of the Year Award and the Rookie of the Year Award. The celebration dinner will be emceed by Austin news anchor Joe Bickett. Other activities for attendees include a “Shop Hop” at the Prime Outlet Center and a “Wine Walk.”
In conjunction with the conference, CASA recently unveiled two new volunteer motivators, a billboard and a special Texas license plate.
The license plate is available through the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and features the phrase “Big Voices for Little Texans” as well as the CASA logo. The plates cost about $30 more than the normal registration fee and $11 of each sale goes to the purchaser’s local program.
The billboard is slated to be posted this week on Interstate-35 north of Wonder World Drive. It features the phrase “Speak up for an abused child” with the CASA logo and website address. The winsome, blue-eyed, little boy on the billboard will have his gaze directed towards San Marcos.
“The purpose of the billboard is to help recruit community volunteers to speak up for children who are in foster care because of evidence of abuse or neglect,” Gagen said. “In addition, when people think about their response to child abuse or prevention, the first thing we want them to think about is becoming a CASA volunteer.”
Texas CASA was formed in 1989 to provide funding, support, and strategies for raising public awareness of child abuse and the need for volunteer advocates. CASA further provides training and resource programs for volunteers. To learn more about volunteering, visit www.becomeacasa.org.