Ladies Night Out is not only a fun way to shop and sample great food, it also raises funds for one of Leavenworth's most important charities, CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates). CASA helps protect children in the community.

By RIMSIE McCONIGA
rmcconiga@leavenworthtimes.com


Ladies Night Out is not only a fun way to shop and sample great food, it also raises funds for one of Leavenworth’s most important charities, CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates). CASA helps protect children in the community.

This year’s Ladies Night Out event will be from 4-8 p.m. Jan. 20 at Lansing Middle School.
“Ladies Night out will be incredibly helpful to CASA,” says Kelly Meyer, executive director of the First Judicial District CASA Association. “With the addition of CAC (Child Advocacy Center) services under our umbrella, we are able to help so many more children but those services also have costs that must be absorbed. We are so grateful to have this fundraiser to benefit the CASA programs and it is a true testament to the support our community always provides to ensure children are safe and receiving the support and services they need. We are very fortunate to have the businesses and community members in Leavenworth. I am constantly surprised at how generous and caring our community is.”

Sandy Hattock, general manager/advertising manager of the Leavenworth Times, believes the Times’ commitment to helping children is very important and the newspaper’s annual event, Ladies Night Out, is a great way to raise funds and provide an entertaining night for not only women, but men and kids in the area.

“It takes a lot of volunteers to make an event like this successful, and helping children feels right,” says Sandy. “We have a good variety of food from area restaurants donating delicious samples and shopping from a variety of vendors who offer jewelry, clothing, cosmetics, handcrafted goods, health products, cricket-eating challenge and more, plus a fashion show from Maurices, and extraordinary grand prizes.”

The grand prizes this year are some of the most exciting and valuable the Times has ever offered, and will include the grand prize, a Laser Chin Lift for you and seven of your friends donated by LaserDoc. Next on the prize list is a Generac iQ2000 Portable Generator donated by Le Loop Services LLC, a Branson vacation for two donated by Branson CVB, and a 40-inch HDTV. There will also be a large silent auction. These grand prizes boost ticket sales for attendance and prize drawings. One-hundred percent of all ticket sales for attendance and prize drawings, plus the money raised from the silent auction goes to CASA.

Kelly believes Ladies Night Out will be a big help to CASA in many ways. And she knows firsthand how vital it is for children who are going through difficult times to have the support and help of a CASA volunteer.
“Obviously, I am partial to our CASA volunteers and their amazing work with kiddos, but I cannot tell you how many times we have made the comment, ‘I am so glad that child has a CASA. I can’t imagine what would have happened if they did not have someone advocating for them,’” says Kelly. “Our advocates have made relationships with children that are lifelong and/or life-changing. For some children, it is just the idea that one adult is involved in their case and their only priority is them and their best interests. And we tell children that we report directly to the judge and ask if they have anything they want the judge to know. Regardless of the significance of their message, we always make sure to include their comments in our reports to the judge and it can be very powerful for a child to know that the judge is hearing their words and they have a voice.
“One family that comes to mind when I think about success involved a single mom and her children. They were really struggling. The mom was trying very hard but sometimes it is just too much and it is very hard for parents to keep the momentum needed to turn things around. The kids were amazing and really took to their CASA and knew she was there for them and wanted what was best for them and to help them. The entire family really opened up to the CASA and included her in their successes and their downfalls, they took her advice and called on her when there were mountains they didn’t think they could climb. Ultimately, the mom was able to take care of business and the children went home. It was a great success story for the family and to this day the family still has contact with their CASA and it is a relationship that was built in such a hard time in their lives but has turned into such as supportive and caring friendship.”
Although Kelly admits it is a common misconception that the children CASA serves will be happy, sometimes that is just not possible.

“It is wonderful when the child can be safe and happy but sometimes a child’s happiness is stolen when they miss a parent they love but that parent cannot keep them safe,” says Kelly. “A CASA volunteer has many jobs but their primary focus is to advocate for the child’s safety and a long-term permanent home. Family struggles can be very traumatic to children. Children experience trauma in so many ways to include abuse, neglect, witnessing traumatic events and so many other circumstances. The volunteer is there to be the eyes and ears for the judge, all the while keeping the child’s best interest the No. 1 priority.

“When we estimate our cost savings to taxpayers we are always amazed at the power of one volunteer. The cost of court advocacy is expensive and continues to rise. Based on the national average, the salary of a child advocate is approximately $32,970 annually.  We project annually a minimum of 4,000 volunteer hours, this results in a cost savings of nearly $100,000 each year.”

The funds that the Times raise will go to support CASA’s programs and services, ensuring that they are fully equipped to provide the services that children and their families have come to rely on. Funds are used to make sure that the Child Advocacy Center has a forensic interviewer ready to provide services at referral, ensuring CASA is providing the services needed in a timely manner. Funds raised at Ladies Night Out will also help CASA train volunteers to become professional volunteer advocates, a task Kelly says the organization prides itself on.

“We strive to ensure our volunteers are the best possible advocates they can be to each and every child they encounter,” says Kelly.
Without donations and fundraisers such as Ladies Night Out, CASA would be unable to do what needs to be done for the children and families that receive their services.

“Although we work tirelessly to bring in funding sources that support our programs and missions, there is a gap and that gap is where we have always relied on the support of our community,” says Kelly. “I honestly think I am so blessed to be a part of CASA. I think it is the people/relationships and the privilege to witness the impact our services can have on children’s lives that makes it so special. Working with community members who support our mission, our staff, local business owners that never hesitate to financially support our programs and services and our volunteers must be the best part. Almost daily I am reminded of how amazing people are and that is a unique opportunity I do not take lightly. I am so grateful to be involved in the CASA organization.”

Sandy and the Times’ staff know what a great job CASA does for local families and how vital it is to ensure that the organization continues to help those who need this support.
Advance tickets to Ladies Night Out are available at the Times starting Jan. 8 for $8 person. Tickets will be available at the event for $10.