BALTIMORE—On Oct. 17, 2015, more than 160 runners (and walkers) joined Maryland CASA Association and local Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) programs as “superheroes for children” at the Baltimore Running Festival and raised over $50,000 to expand their advocacy services for abused and neglected children.
“Team CASA” comprised 165 CASA volunteers, staff and board members, and other supporters who ran to raise awareness and funds to support CASA’s work. McBee Associates, a health care management and consulting firm based in Columbia, MD, served as the team’s ‘Extraordinary’ sponsor.
This year’s event, the Organization’s 7th as a charity team in the festival, was its second-most successful. “We had 20 more runners than last year and exceeded our fundraising goal by more than $1,500.00,” said Ed Kilcullen, Maryland CASA Association’s state director, who ran in the 5k for his seventh consecutive year.
“Team CASA’s goals were twofold – to raise public awareness and to raise funds to support Maryland CASA’s efforts to recruit more volunteers to serve as Court Appointed Special Advocates,” said Lisa Lunghofer, board president for the Organization. “We are so unbelievably proud and thankful to everyone who came together in support of our mission this year,” she added.
Wearing “Team CASA” race shirts, this year’s team included several children and the following participants:
– Two sisters, Nicole (28) and Alison (26) Baxter, who ran the half-marathon, and their parents, Mary, a former volunteer for CASA of Baltimore City, and Michael, who ran the 5K.
– Lucy Sytov (30), a CASA volunteer for 8 years, and resident of Canton, who raised over $1,500 for Team CASA.
– Melanie Wenger (58), a former Maryland CASA board member and resident of Annapolis who ran the 5K and raised over $2,000 for the organization.
– Jami-Lin Williams (26), a former Maryland CASA intern/volunteer and resident of Baltimore, who finished the 5k fifth overall for females and second in her age group with a time of 19:51.
– Hollie Mercier (46) a current CASA volunteer from Frederick, and her family, Benjamin (14), Matthew (11), and her husband Keith (46) who ran the 5K and raised over $500 for the Team.
This year’s team also garnered the support of 12 youth cheerleaders and their parents from the Columbia Ravens organization who won third place in a contest sponsored by 98 Rock’s ad-hoc charity, 98 Rock + Recovery, for their spirit & enthusiasm in cheering on Team CASA and other runners as they passed along the 26.2 mile course. The group received a prize of $1,000 to support Team CASA.
Kilcullen believes that exposure at the Baltimore Running Festival helps to promote awareness of CASA, which is often confused with other organizations that use the same acronym. “CASA is still a well-kept secret and we need to continually promote awareness to recruit additional volunteers until every child in need in Maryland is placed in a safe and permanent home,” he said.
Maryland CASA supports the work of 15 CASA programs throughout the state. CASA volunteers complete extensive screening and training before being appointed by the court to serve as advocates for individual children.
“Their goal is simple – to ensure every child their right to grow up in a safe, permanent home,” Kilcullen said.
Despite having 1,200 volunteers serving in Maryland, only 1 in 5 of the approximately 5,000 children under the protection of the courts has an advocate speaking up for their best interests.
About Maryland CASA Association
Maryland CASA Association is a private, non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1997 that supports the work of fifteen Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) programs serving children in Baltimore City and 20 counties throughout Maryland. For more information, visit www.GoTeamCASA.org or www.MarylandCASA.org.