Champions For Children Award Dinner Honored Junior League Of Dallas And Learned The Impact Of Dallas CASA From A Former Client

Celebrating its 20th anniversary at the Fairmont, Dallas CASA‘s Champion of Children Award Dinner proved to be both a celebration for those providing foster children protection in the legal system, as well as emphasizing the long-term results of the program.  On Thursday, November 16, guests at the annual dinner included a large contingency from the Junior League of Dallas and rightly so, since JLD not only received the Judge Barefoot Sanders Champion of Children Award, but former JLD President Christie Carter was the award dinner’s honorary chair. 

Perhaps the highlight of the evening was speaker Jackie Davis, who told of his first-hand experience as a Dallas CASA “client” and staffer. Here is a report from the field:

Jim Lozier*

A record-breaking crowd of 525 guests packed The Fairmont Dallas for Dallas CASA’s 20th anniversary Champion of Children Award Dinner, which raised more than $500,000 for non-profit organization. 

Junior League of Dallas attendees*

The evening honored the Junior League of Dallas with the Judge Barefoot Sanders Champion of Children Award for its commitment and service to children in our community. The award was presented to League President Jennifer Tobin by Dallas CASA board member Jim Lozier. Featured speaker Jackie Davis brought the crowd to tears with stories from his childhood. Removed from his biological parents at 18 months told, Jackie had a failed adoption at age five before cycling through 14 foster homes before another adoption at age 13. Through it all, he had his Dallas CASA volunteer Marlys Rizos.

Jackie Davis*

“I realized through her that my life may not be picture perfect, but it’s how I respond to that imperfection that matters,” he said. “I knew Superman was an orphan, but he was an orphan with special powers. She helped me see I didn’t need special powers.”

What dinner guests may not have seen between Jackie’s stylish suit and his black leather Converse high-top sneakers was a pair of royal blue Superman socks.

“Children come into this world with a light, but it’s only as bright as those who stand behind them and support them,” he said. “My light shone because of her.”

We hear stories like Jackie’s, but to hear it in his own words and through the eyes of the child was remarkable. He was alternately heartbreaking and heartbreakingly funny. He showed his WFAA “Wednesday’s Child” segment with Gloria Campos filmed when he was 11 years old and looking for another adoptive home. He told the crowd about a foster mother who wore muumuus every day, much to fashionable Jackie’s dismay. His first time to be in a courtroom, at age 11, he said out loud when the judge entered the courtroom: “What? The judge wears a muumuu, too?”

Derrick John Morrison, Cheryl Lee Shannon and Kathi Morrison*

The many judges, including Andrea Martin and Cheryl Lee Shannon, attending the dinner laughed in delight.

Jackie’s Dallas CASA volunteer came to represent what he wanted in life. He’s now graduated from the University of North Texas with a bachelor’s in social work and received his master’s in social work from the University of Texas at Arlington earlier this year. He’s working as a volunteer supervisor at Dallas CASA, guiding foster children and their volunteer advocates through the same relationships that so altered his own life.

“I learned so much from Marlys,” he said. “When children come into foster care, their lives are pulled apart like a puzzle. Marlys worked from the outside in, putting me back together. She didn’t ask about my pain without knowing my favorite color and favorite foods.

She got to know Jackie, told him he was loved and showed him what a functional family looked like for the first time in his life. She advocated for him to stay with foster siblings he had grown attached to and for him to meet his baby biological siblings for the first time. Marlys represented a different way of life to Jackie. After he was adopted into a loving family, Jackie lost touch with Marlys. However, a few years ago he reconnected with her and her family. Sadly, Marlys passed away this year.

To wrap up his speech, Jackie brought to the stage Marlys’ grandson, Kyle Rizos, who completed his CASA training and was going to be sworn in the next day as a court-appointed special advocate. Kyle received his own standing ovation.

John and Laura Losinger and Priscilla and Corey Anthony*

Event co-chairs were Priscilla and Corey Anthony and Laura and John Losinger; honorary chair was longtime Dallas CASA supporter and former Junior League President Christie Carter.

Hudson Weischel, Beverly Dealey, Christie Carter and Pam Busbee*

Kathleen LaValle and John Gibson*

Dallas CASA Board of Directors member Cynt Marshall introduced Jackie, moving the crowd with photos and stories of her own three children all adopted out of foster care.

“Good things can always come out of bad things, particularly when you have someone who cares about you,” Marshall told the crowd. “Your return on investment here is a changed life.”

Other Dallas CASA board members in attendance included outgoing board chair John Gibson, Dave Kroenke, Greg May, Jonathan Bassham and incoming board chair and ExxonMobil treasurer, Bob Schleckser.

Also part of the captivated audience was Caroline Rose Hunt, Lisa and Clay Cooley, Pam Busbee and her daughter Beverly Dealey, Sarah and Alan Losinger, Debbie Oates and Jenny and Trevor Rees-Jones III

* Photo credit: Kristina Bowman

MySweetCharity Summer Pitch: 2017 Parade Of Playhouses

According to Dallas CASA Board Chair John Gibson,

John Gibson*

Looking for a cool way to run off some of your children’s energy while also helping a good cause? Grab your kids and head to Dallas CASA’s Parade of Playhouses July 7 through 23 at NorthPark Center.

With 14 perfectly pint-sized playhouses decorating the halls of NorthPark, Parade of Playhouses is the perfect way to let your kids’ imaginations go wild while also learning about children in our community who need help.

For 22 years, NorthPark Center has played host to the playhouses, which are donated by local builders, designers and corporations and available to win through raffle at the end of the 17-day event. What child doesn’t want to imagine his or her own miniature house? This year’s designs include a house in the image of an owl, an activity house with a climbing wall and even a house shaped like a cuckoo clock. House designers and builders pour skill, creativity and love into these unusual creations.

The event benefits Dallas CASA, a nonprofit that provides volunteer advocates for abused and neglected children navigating the child welfare system. Walking the corridors and viewing the playhouses is a great way to start a conversation with your own kids about those in our community who are less fortunate. Children in the child welfare system don’t dare dream of a playhouse with all the bells and whistles. They dream of safe and permanent homes where they are loved.

2017 Parade of Playhouses*

Dallas CASA’s Parade of Playhouses is open until Sunday, July 23, during NorthPark’s hours. Viewing the playhouses is free and raffle tickets to win a playhouses are available for $5 each or five for $20.

All proceeds from the raffle ticket sales help Dallas CASA provide more children with advocates to serve them. For Dallas CASA, Parade of Playhouses has also become a key recruiting and community awareness event. Tables throughout NorthPark are staffed with volunteer advocates and other supporters who can tell you about becoming a volunteer advocate for abused children.

In fact, Parade of Playhouses might be the beginning of something for you to do after summer, too. A training class for volunteer advocates begins Sept. 6, right after the kids go back to school. The first step to becoming a volunteer advocate is attending an information session.

Maybe it’s your turn to dream not about a tiny house but about helping make the world a better place one child at a time.

* Graphic and photo provided by Dallas CASA

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.

NorthPark’s Arhaus Had Munchkin Furniture On View For Cherish The Children Luncheon’s Patron Party

In preparation for the Tuesday, April 5, Dallas CASA’s Cherish the Children Luncheon with speaker/author Laura McBride at the Omni, Event Chair Erin Pope arranged for a patron party at NorthPark’s Arhaus. Here is a report from the field:

Kathleen LaValle and Erin Pope*

Kathleen LaValle and Erin Pope*

Dallas CASA’s Cherish the Children patron party was the evening of Sunday, April 3, at NorthPark Center’s Arhaus. The lovely evening featured food and drinks for more than 70 attendees including luncheon sponsors and designers of the children’s furnishings like Board Chair John Gibson and designers Casey and Phil Green, Emily Robinson and  Alex McCreight. The charity luncheon supports Dallas CASA’s mission to provide advocates for abused and neglected children.

Barbara Womble and Caroline Rose Hunt*

Barbara Womble and Caroline Rose Hunt*

This year’s luncheon honoree is Dallas’ own Caroline Rose Hunt, who told the patron party guests that Dallas CASA is her favorite charity. Arhaus donated a $500 gift certificate for the evening, and the lucky winner of the random drawing just happened to be Caroline Rose Hunt’s guest Barbara Womble.

Phil and Casey Green*

Phil and Casey Green*

Emily Robinson and Alex McCreight*

Emily Robinson and Alex McCreight*

As lovely as the evening and event were, the highlight was the 14 beautiful children’s chairs to be auctioned at the fundraising luncheon. Attendees got a preview of the chairs and furnishings which come in every creative shape and size, including painted chairs, upholstered chairs and detailed stools perfect for little ones. One item is shaped like a boat, with the seat opening to make a toy box. Another pair of chairs feature a beautiful, hand-laid geometric pattern of wooded blocks.

* Photos provided by Dallas CASA

Dallas CASA Board To Be Headed By John Gibson And Joined By Mike Brosin And Cynthia Comparin

Word comes that Dallas CASA has new board leadership and members. Heading up the board will be Goldman Sachs Managing Director John Gibson. In addition to his new role of leadership, the Harvard graduate is also a Dallas CASA advocate and “currently working three open cases for kids who’ve been removed from their homes.”

John Gibson*

John Gibson*

Mike Brosin (File photo)

Mike Brosin (File photo)

Cynthia Comparin*

Cynthia Comparin*

Joining the board are Crest Cadillac/Crest Infiniti Managing Partner Mike Brosin and Animato CEO Cynthia Comparin.

Luckily for more than 2,000 abused and neglected children living in foster care in Dallas County, Dallas CASA volunteers are on the frontline “to advocate for the best interests of children under protective care of courts, so they will have safe, permanent homes where they can thrive.”

* Photo provided by Dallas CASA