Inspirational Talk by Oak Cliff Native, Award to Jewish Women’s Group Highlight Dallas CASA’s 10th Annual Cherish the Children Luncheon

The big event benefiting Dallas CASA, held August 5 at The Fairmont Dallas, was billed as the group’s 10th annual Cherish the Children Luncheon. But one of the groups honored at the event reinforced the message that Dallas CASA (short for Court Appointed Special Advocates) has been helping abused and neglected children a lot longer than that.

Joyce Rosenfield and Mark Berg*

The group, the Greater Dallas Section of the National Council of Jewish Women, received Dallas CASA’s newly named Caroline Rose Hunt Cherish the Children Award. That the award was presented to the group by Mark S. Berg, a past chair of the Dallas CASA board of directors, had a special significance. Mark’s late mother, Rose Marion Berg, was a member of the NCJW and one of the founders of Dallas CASA nearly 40 years ago.

Said Berg: “CASA is about a group of mothers who could not stand to see children mistreated. Dallas CASA is now within reach of achieving what was unthinkable a few years ago—serving every child in need. We’ve all stood on the shoulders of those dedicated mothers.”

Gail Cook, Bunny Williams, Caroline Rose Hunt, Pat McCall and Lynn Sheldon*

The 10th annual luncheon, a sold-out affair attended by about 430, was chaired by Shonn Brown. Guests included Ruth Altshuler, Cheryl Lee Shannon, Evelyn Henry Miller, Lisa Cooley, Harriet Miers, Lynn McBee, Paul Coggins, Tanya Foster, Tiffany Divis, Elba Garcia, Gail Cook, Bunny Williams, Caroline Rose Hunt, Pat McCall, Lynn Sheldon  and Sarah Losinger.

Cheryl Lee Shannon, Shonn Evans Brown, Elba Garcia, Kathleen LaValle and Evelyn Henry Miller*

Following an excellent lunch of tortilla soup and chicken salad and brief remarks by Kathleen LaValle, Dallas CASA’s executive director and president, attendees heard from guest speaker Casey Gerald. He’s a 30-year-old Oak Cliff native who’s achieved national prominence as a writer, business leader and motivational speaker.

A co-founder and CEO of a group called MBAs Across America, which aims to bring community support to entrepreneurs, Casey recalled being abandoned by his mother at age 12, while his father struggled with drug addiction. After the community intervened to help him, he said, he was able to make his way from South Oak Cliff to Yale University and later to Harvard Business School.

Casey Gerald*

Even so, Casey told the crowd, he should not be held up as a particular example of “triumph over adversity,” because it’s more important to address the root causes of child abuse and neglect. “No degree makes up for being unwanted,” he said. “No amount of money can make you fight hunger pangs. Meeting no president makes up for not having your mother. Not a single kid leaves behind those wounds of childhood.”

Casey wrapped up his talk by saying, about CASA, “This is an organization that’s dedicated to keeping kids alive. So I thank you! … [But,] how do we put ourselves out of business? What if we didn’t make the best CASA—but made a country where we don’t need CASA?”

With a target of raising $15,000 during the luncheon, which included a silent auction of children’s furniture, it was announced at 12:40 p.m. that $7,261 had been raised toward the goal so far. When all was said and done, Dallas CASA says, the 10th annual luncheon raised a total net amount of $170,000.

* Photo credit: Kristina Bowman