According to Dallas CASA President/CEO Kathleen M. LaValle,
“One of my favorite Christmas television specials is ‘How The Grinch Stole Christmas’. If you’re like me, you’ve seen it enough times to be able to recite along:
“’And what happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say – that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day… the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches, plus two!’
“Whenever I hear these lines, I can’t help but think of Dallas CASA’s incredible volunteers and staff. Every single one has a heart three sizes larger than normal, and the children of Dallas are the beneficiaries.
“Our 1,500 active volunteers are community members who do incredible things. When Dallas CASA asked volunteer Priscilla Anthony to take the case of Marianna, a victim of abuse, sexual exploitation and abandonment, she didn’t hesitate. Even when we told her Marianna, age 15, had just walked into court and asked to fire her entire child welfare team, Priscilla said yes. Priscilla’s heart heard a calling.
“’Marianna was book smart, but she was also street smart and system smart,” Priscilla said. “She was a 15-year-old girl who acted like a 30-year-old.” The pair liked each other from the moment they met. They shared rapport, laughing until their sides hurt, but also seriousness and honesty. Priscilla’s first question to Marianna was ‘Why did you fire your team?’
“’Her relationships had been failing because people forgot she was only 15,’ Priscilla said. ‘She wasn’t being manipulative or difficult – she was a traumatized 15-year-old who’d learned to act much older.’ With Priscilla by her side, Marianna tackled her issues. She started therapy to address childhood trauma and stopped doing drugs and drinking. She started going to school and following rules. She discovered a love of animals and got a part-time job at a veterinarian’s office with Priscilla’s assistance. Marianna started to dream of more than a safe home. She started to dream of a family and college and a future.
“This summer, after three years together, Marianna’s committed foster mother asked to adopt Marianna, now age 17. Via a court Zoom adoption ceremony, the pair became mother-daughter.
“’I cried so hard my eyes were swollen,’ Priscilla said. ‘We are all so proud of Marianna. She’s amazing – a hard worker, smart, motivated and deserving of every good thing.’
“I think you’ll agree with me that Priscilla deserves our heartfelt thanks. Being an advocate is a volunteer role like no other, and my wish this holiday season is that we’ll have more community members join our team. The first step to becoming a volunteer is to attend an information session. We have training classes every month of the year, and our classes are currently online due to the pandemic. Or support our advocacy for child victims of abuse and neglect by making a donation at dallascasa.org.
“I can’t promise you’ll have the physical strength of ten Grinches plus two, but I can promise your heart won’t ever be the same.”
* Graphic/photo provided by Dallas CASA