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

Dallas CASA’s 10th Annual Cherish The Children Luncheon To Have Casey Gerald As Keynote Speaker And The Inaugural Caroline Rose Hunt Award

Sometimes the best things can be found in your own backyard. That’s exactly what Dallas CASA’s 10th Annual Cherish The Children Luncheon Chair Shonn Brown discovered for the Wednesday, April 5th luncheon at the Fairmont Hotel.

Cherish the Children Luncheon*

For its keynote speaker, Shonn announced it will be Dallas native Casey Gerald, who overcame a “harrowing childhood in Oak Cliff to receive degrees from Yale University and Harvard Business School.”

Casey Gerald**

Like many success stories, his accomplishments were due to his parents. But they weren’t the role models that other folks serve in their children’s lives, unless it was what not to become. His mother, who suffered from mental illness, disappeared from Casey’s life when he was 12. As for his dad, he was a drug addict. What helped Casey take a different fork in the road was “his community, who surrounded him with support.”

Thanks to excelling at high school football and that community support, he earned a BA in political science from Yale and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

But what launched him to internet fame was his 2014 Harvard commencement speech that went viral.

Just two years later, his TED talk “There be no miracles here” once again catapulted him into internet fame with more than 1M views.

Caroline Rose Hunt (File photo)

According to columnist Anand Giriharadas, “Casey has lived the breathtaking fullness of America. He is a real-life Forrest Gump — oh, and he’s not yet 30. His sonorous voice, on the page and the stage, will be a bugle call for his generation, and for the rest of us.”

Also on the “Cherish the Children” program will be the inaugural Caroline Rose Hunt Cherish the Children Award, which will be presented to the National Council of Jewish Women, Great Dallas Section. Named after longtime philanthropist and Dallas CASA Children’s Council member Caroline Rose Hunt, the award was established to recognize “an individual or organization for outstanding contributions helping children who have been removed from home for abuse or severe neglect.”

Tickets are now available starting at $175, but those tickets are limited.

* Graphic provided by Dallas CASA 
** Photo credit: Joao Canziani

Dallas CASA’s Young Professionals Dashed The “Nothing-Happens-In-January” Myth With Their CASAblanca At Level Two

Evidently no one at Dallas CASA‘s Young Professionals got the memo that January is an eventless month. Being true professionals, they put on their party finery on Saturday, January 28, and turned Level Two into a one-night casino for their CASAblanca that would have had Humphrey Bogart envious. Here’s a report from the field:

Dressed in their finest, Dallas CASA’s Young Professionals took their energy and passion for helping abused and neglected children and turned it into a second successful CASAblanca casino party.

Held at Dallas CASA’s building last year, party organizers moved the event to Level Two this year and almost doubled the attendance. All proceeds from the event benefit Dallas CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates).


With The Special Edition Band playing everything from Earth, Wind and Fire to Michael Jackson to Bruno Mars, the dance floor stayed just as busy as the 22 blackjack tables, three roulette wheels and two craps tables. Waiters passed some appetizers, but the barbecue pulled pork sandwiches, meatballs and empanadas on the buffet line were quite popular, too. The ten-piece band kept the party going late with singers engaging with the crowd from the dance floor. After 10 p.m., party organizers handed out lighted Styrofoam sticks and the dance floor filled with light.

Jonathan and Christine Bassham**

Christina and Michael Swartz**

Dallas CASA’s Young Professionals is an outreach, awareness and fundraising arm of Dallas CAA. The group is open to anyone ages 21 to 40 who wants to make a difference in the lives of abused children. Many of Dallas CASA’s Young Professionals most active members were in attendance including Young Professionals President Jonathan and Christine Bassham, Andrew Johnson, Bianca Sterling, Jarrid Frednick, Jessica Gonzales, Caitlan and Stephen Jones, Ellie and Zach Tally, Christina and Michael Swartz, Matthew Michalak, Eniola Akinrinade, Kelsey Hamilton, Coleman Lewis, Aaron Haralson, Emily Schwab, Mitchell Brown, Lindsey Marsh, Mindy and Woody McMinn, Suzanne and John Gibson, Michael Canada, Michelle Rice, Brad Strum, Maritza and Oscar Garcia, Hailey and Brian Bain, Joe Moidel and Vanessa Brown.

Joe Moidel, Vanessa Brown, Emaa Carter and Mark Hiduke*

Kelcey Hamilton, Reasha Hedke and Dana Swann co-chaired the party, with Mark Hiduke and Emma Carter serving as the presenting sponsor. Dallas CASA board members John Gibson and Woody McMinn joined the crowd, as well as Dallas CASA executive director and CEO Kathleen LaValle and her husband Michael LaValle and daughter Stephanie LaValle.

Woody and Mindy McMinn, Suzanne and John Gibson and Kathleen and Michael LaValle**


The evening ended with raffle prizes, including two Apple watches, staycation packages for The Fairmont Dallas (host of Cherish the Children Luncheon on Wednesday, April 5, also benefiting Dallas CASA) and Soul Cycle class packages.

For more information about becoming one of these “young professionals, check here!

* Photo credit: Tim Heitman 
** Photo credit: Nate Bednarz

Dallas CASA’s Cherish The Children Was Highlighted By Children’s Chairs, Author Laura McBride And Call-To-Arms For Volunteers

Christie Carter was event juggling on Tuesday, April 5. At 11 a.m. She was part of the 2016 Celebrating Women Luncheon announcement at Neiman Marcus Downtown. But before the right official reveal was made, Christie was headed over to the Omni for the Dallas CASA Cherish the Children luncheon.

Dallas CASA chair

Dallas CASA chair

Dallas CASA chair

Dallas CASA chair

Whew! That gal must have broken some record. She got there in time to check out the Deborah Gaspar Jewelry and the adorable kids’ chairs in the silent auction along with Lydia Novakov, Sarah Losinger, Connie O’Neill, Joyce Lacerte and Lyda Hill, before the doors opened to the Trinity Ballroom just before 11:30.

Lydia Novokov, Sarah Losinger and Connie ONeill

Lydia Novokov, Sarah Losinger and Connie ONeill

Charlene Howell and Caroline Rose Hunt

Charlene Howell and Caroline Rose Hunt

Honorary Chair Caroline Rose Hunt was already at her front row table chatting with Charlene Howell, Barbara Womble and Lynne Sheldon, who was still amazed that on this day husband Roy Sheldon was playing tennis after suffering a life-threatening illness just a couple of years before.

Across the way was a table of SMU Kappa Alpha Theta alumna (Jenni Scoggins, Barbara Cervin, Maury Cunningham, Sara Lytle, Francie Johnsen, Lynn Van Amburgh, Amy Dugan, Taylor Teague, Cori Bray and Anne Besser), who have been so supportive of Dallas CASA over the year. When asked about the construction status of the sorority’s new digs, all were delighted to claim that it would be the best one on the campus.

From the left: (Back row) Jenni Scoggins, Barbara Cervin, Maury Cunningham, Sara Lytle, Francie Johnsen and Lynn Van Amburgh; (Front row) Amy Dugan, Taylor Teague, Cori Bray and Anne Besser

From the left: (Back row) Jenni Scoggins, Barbara Cervin, Maury Cunningham, Sara Lytle, Francie Johnsen and Lynn Van Amburgh; (Front row) Amy Dugan, Taylor Teague, Cori Bray and Anne Besser

Luncheon Chair Erin Pope welcomed the group pointing out the dignitaries in the crowd and introduced Dallas CASA Children’s Council President Jenny Reynolds, who told of two of her CASA encounters. One had been Desi, who had be rescued from a neglectful and abusive situation, only to find herself trapped in the foster care maze. Yes, she loved her mother, but it was not a healthy relationship. Thanks to Jenny’s efforts and those social workers, Desi’s mother allowed her daughter to be adopted by her foster family. Jenny still keeps up with Desi’s progress which is flourishing.

Erin Pope and Jenny Reynolds

Erin Pope and Jenny Reynolds

With tears welling up in her eyes, she described “J,” her current foster child, who reflected years of neglect. Now, 13-years old, she ended up in foster care because her mother is in prison for harming a child — “J.” Her grandmother died months ago and her grandfather dropped “J” off on the doorstep of CPS because she was too difficult. Bouncing from foster home to foster home in the past six months, she had more than reflects wrong choices, she was charging into a life of self-destructive decisions — selling and using drugs, sex tapes, etc. A turning point recently took place when “J” was moved to a residential treatment center in Houston. Jenny drove to Houston the previous Friday to deliver a suitcase of “J’s” belongings. There at the front door was “J” waiting for Jenny. “She looked at me and said, ‘Jenny, you actually came. Jenny, I miss you.”

Kathleen LaValle

Kathleen LaValle

Dallas CASA Executive Director/President Kathleen LaValle recognized Honoree Caroline with former Dallas CASA Executive Director/President Beverly Levy at her side and then told of the organization’s goal to make Dallas the first city in the nation to have a CASA for each child in protective care. Of course, there is a need for funding to provide support for the advocates, but the need for volunteers is just as great. Without these adults volunteering their time, minds and hearts, there would be hundreds of vulnerable youngsters.

Erin then introduced guest speaker/author Laura McBride. Living in Las Vegas, she told about a time when her daughter was young and played soccer on a field across the highway from strip clubs and bordellos. Remember Laura and her family live in Las Vegas. In one of her classes, her 13-year-old daughter was asked to write her motto for living. She told her parents that her motto was a neon sign she had seen so often that had inspired her to live life fully and boldly. When Laura asked what her motto was, she replied, “Live Nude.”

Laura McBride

Laura McBride

Laura recalled that she had wanted to live in a college town or a place that was safe. Instead she lived in a city filled with people so very different from herself. It was a boomtown of all types of people and has established an automatic acceptance of newbies. The city’s economy is also one based on service, where people are nice and watch what others might need.

All of this helped prepared her daughter in 2012 to head to the East Coast for college and to open to accepting differences. This development changed Laura’s view of how things might go. She said that instead of turning inward which is typical of humans, she realized that it was wrong. “Perhaps we are progressing by not joining groups that are necessarily like us.”

As a former advocate, she championed the idea that people need “a little more love, a little more care, a little less hate, a little less fear.”

Before adjourning Dallas CASA Board of Directors Chair John Gibson reinforced the message that had been provided earlier — the need for volunteers and, of course, funds.

Suggestion: You do not need a law degree to be a Dallas CASA. You just have to have compassion, determination and time. If you can spare those three things, you just might find a “J” on a front door waiting for you.