- May 20, 2020
Strike a blow for physical fitness and help raise money for an excellent organization, when the Super Hero 5K Run/Walk takes place on Saturday, April 13 at the Lewisburg Area Recreation Park. You may wonder, “What is the Susquehanna Valley CASA?” According to Yvonne Heatley, Executive Director of Susquehanna Valley CASA, Susquehanna Valley CASA –
Strike a blow for physical fitness and help raise money for an excellent organization, when the Super Hero 5K Run/Walk takes place on Saturday, April 13 at the Lewisburg Area Recreation Park.
You may wonder, “What is the Susquehanna Valley CASA?”
According to Yvonne Heatley, Executive Director of Susquehanna Valley CASA, Susquehanna Valley CASA – Voices for Children is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that has its origins in Lycoming County. In 2003, CASA of Lycoming County became operational under the umbrella of the YWCA. Its purpose was, and is, to recruit, train and manage ordinary citizens to become volunteer advocates who stand up for abused and neglected children who find themselves entangled in the child welfare system and the courts through no fault of their own. These volunteers become and remain the most consistent, caring adults in the child’s life, while their parents and caregivers attempt to improve their life circumstances so that these children can be reunited with them. At times, this is not possible, and the children are eventually adopted by loving families or by other kinship members of the family. The acronym “CASA” stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates.
She said in 2008, Northumberland County also began a CASA program and then in 2012, Union and Snyder Counties expressed a desire to become part of the CASA program. In 2014, Susquehanna Valley CASA became a regionalized program, the first in Pennsylvania to do so.
CASA is a national program, present in 49 states, with over 975 local programs across the US. The program has its origins in Seattle, WA when in 1977, a common pleas judge became overwhelmed with frustration that he could not seem to obtain sufficient objective information regarding the child’s status and best interest. This was (and is) primarily due to local child welfare offices being overrun with the number and complexity of cases presented to them. He began the program that gives ordinary citizens intense and highly detailed training so they might learn to gather objective information regarding the circumstances which brought these children and families into the system; to nurture positive and caring relationships with the children, who often were traumatized and unable to trust most adults; and to write comprehensive and factual reports which the Court used to increase the available information available. Volunteers are sworn in by judges and given the permission and responsibility to perform these duties and to stay available to the child until their case is closed, which is an average of 18-24 months.
Locally, according to Heatley, over 93 percent of children who have a CASA volunteer by their side will not return to the system. Aside from the obvious benefits of having such an advocate for the children, this saves an enormous amount of dollars in our local communities and hopefully results in these children becoming successful and productive citizens who will break the cycle of their generational family struggles.
Funding for CASA programs varies across the United States; some are county-funded, most rely on grants, private donations and the generosity of its communities through fundraisers and other local events to keep it afloat. Susquehanna Valley CASA – Voices for Children, falls into the latter category. At present they are 78 percent dependent on grants and other private funds, but they are partially funded through Lycoming County Commissioners and have a commitment from Union and Snyder counties for a similar arrangement beginning in July of 2019. They are recipients of many in-kind donations, from office space to office supplies. Over 90 percent of their funding returns to the organization to supply the volunteers with professional social workers who must oversee the volunteers.
“The Super Hero 5K Run/Walk is a very important fundraiser for us,” Heatley told Webb Weekly. “We hope for a good amount of participation, plus it is a great outing for a worthy cause.”
Things get underway at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 13, with registration for the event. There will be a Fun Run/Walk at 9:30 a.m. and the actual 5K Run/Walk will start at 10 a.m.