There was no way another table could have been squeezed into the Dallas County Club ballroom. Such was the case of Dallas CASA’s Cherish the Children Luncheon Thursday, May 7. The Dallas Country Club lobby was crowded enough with 350 guests checking out the adorable, one-of-a-kind chairs in the silent auction.
The designs had been created by Matthew Benys, Couture’s Nicholas Villalba, Creative Room Arrangements, Kay Dalton, Desilynn Faith, Fossil’s Casey Green, Chelsea Green, Liz Conrad Graphic Design, Blake McElroy, Muralicious, Nancy Newbern of Rare Assets Inc., Phelan’s Amy Bailey, Pigment School of the Arts’ Tori Pendergrass and Susie Brennan Interiors. Right next to a door leading to the ballroom was another auction item, a painting created by impressionist-expressionist painter Leoma Lovegrove.
But just as the temperature level was rising in the lobby, the ballroom doors opened to a very cool ballroom with tables so close together that only size 4 waiters could squeeze through.
Off to a table near the stage, a red-haired gal sat looking over some notes. She was not a local. She was Ashley Rhodes-Courter, but more about her later.
After Luncheon Chair Madeline Freberg welcomed guests, a video was played and Dallas CASA Executive Director/President Kathleen LaValle reviewed the capital campaign and recognized the CASA Angel Awardee(s) — Kappa Alpha Theta Dallas Alumnae Chapter that included guests Francie Johnsen, Lynn Van Amburgh, Toni Alles, Barbara Cervin and Maury Cunningham.
Resounding Harmony then performed and it was revealed that they would be doing a benefit concert — Through the Eyes of A Child — for Dallas CASA on Saturday, June 27, at Dallas City Performance Hall.
It was now time that Ashley took over the program. Admitting to still suffering from post-baby weight and a cold, Ashley let a video tell of her 10 years in foster care that seemed doomed after being rescued from a neglectful mother and countless foster homes. One of them was a two-bedroom house trailer where 16 foster children were housed, abused and starved. Another placement ended up with her witnessing her “guardian” being killed following an argument with a neighbor.
But Ashley was stubborn and wasn’t going to be held captive by a dysfunctional foster program system in Florida. Still, she needed an ally. This person was CASA volunteer Mary Miller, who heard of the young girl’s pleas and doggedly investigated her allegations and championed Ashley’s cause. It was because of this CASA volunteer that Ashley more than escaped the nightmares of bureaucracy to be adopted, go to college, get marry, have her own children, foster children and become a New York Times best-selling author.
While Ashley’s tale has been eloquently told in “Three Little Words,” the passion and inspiration cannot be conveyed like Ashley in person. Sure, she may have suffered at the hands of an overburdened system — 14 different foster homes in nine years and some of them abusive! And she may have had a cold and was still suffering from baby hormones, but Ashley’s talk was truly deserving of the standing ovation she received at Cherish the Children.
If you missed the luncheon, buy the book and volunteer with Dallas CASA or make a donation. Future Ashleys would truly appreciate it.