Super heroes for kids in need

Super heroes for kids in need

It has been a busy few weeks for CASA of Southeast Texas with the CASA Superhero 5K event Sept. 28 and the Casas for CASA Playhouse raffle dedicated to the cause of helping abused and neglected children. The theme for this year’s efforts was simple: “Every Child needs a Hero – Abused Children need Superheroes.”

First, CASA of Southeast Texas invited the community to participate in the CASA Superhero 5K, an event designed to increase awareness of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), recruit more volunteer advocates, and raise funds.

Casas for CASA has volunteers who happen to be skilled carpenters build playhouses for children that are raffled off. Proceeds from the raffle and race directly help the organization recruit and train CASA volunteers to give a voice to abused and neglected children in court and the foster care system. This year, the houses were designed by Long Architects and built by Bevilacqua Construction, DRC Construction, Long Architects/Kizziah Construction, Kent Walston and Zachry Industrial Inc.

CASA of Southeast Texas has been serving the children of Jefferson County since 1992.

“Last year, 112 volunteer advocates served 381 abused and neglected children and your support of this event will help serve even more children this year,” said Lanis McWilliams, CASA Executive Director.

CASA volunteers gain a firm understanding of a child’s case and serve as the eyes and ears for the judge. They bring a strong voice and a helping heart to find each child a safe, permanent home, as quickly as possible.

Attorney Kent Walston is on the board of CASA and knows first-hand the vital work CASA performs.

“I work in the courts every day and I see the numbers of abused kids that go through the system,” he said. “CASA advocates for that child.” The nonprofit organization recruits, trains and supervises a diverse group of community volunteers who are appointed by the court to advocate for abused and neglected children.

Walston serves as a municipal judge in Nederland and said the CASA volunteers command instant respect when they appear in the courtroom on behalf of a child.

“That trained volunteer works with families and prospective parents,” he said. “They don’t have a dog in the hunt – just the child. They are pristine in their opinions, and judges value them as an independent observer.”

Every year more children get caught in legal entanglements not of their own making and CASA volunteers are there to assist them on their journey through what is often an arduous process.

“We help a lot children,” said a frankly emotional Walston. “If we don’t step in and help them, it’s to our own peril.” He applies that same philosophy to his work as board president of the Hughen Center in Port Arthur, which provides crucially needed transitions toward sustainable independence primarily for children and adults with physical disabilities.

In his spare time – apart from his work as an attorney, judge, volunteer and full-time dad to his and wife Davilyn’s five children, Walston enjoys woodworking. This year, he built the Fairy Tale Cottage playhouse, a feat accomplished over an approximately six-week period. That seems like a lot of work – and it is, until you consider the four months Walston spent building a lighthouse playhouse with working light for the 2011 Casas for CASA event.

A drawing was held Saturday, Oct. 5 for the Casa for CASA Superhero Playhouses inside Parkdale Mall by JC Penney:

The Cowboy Fort – Gina Harris, Nederland

The Knight’s Castle – Angie Belaire, Nederland

The Indian Adobe – Rachael Roane, Beaumont

The Fairy Tale Cottage – Ronda Sunderland, Orange