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County CASA lights up giving tree and raises nearly $12,000 for advocacy in court to benefit foster children

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    DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pennsylvania (WPMT) — The Dauphin County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) lit up the lives of local foster children on Monday by revealing that their Holiday “Giving Tree” has raised over 12,000 to support advocacy for these children in court.

Surrounded by socially distanced board members, volunteer Special Advocates, donors and a musical performance by Jordan Lewis, a Hershey High School senior and Cantabile soloist, Dauphin County CASA illuminated the tree that is now adorned with colorful ornaments, garland, packages and lights – all symbolizing the individual and corporate donations that flowed into the fundraiser since its launch on Giving Tuesday, Dec. 1.

CASA officals say the tree encourages Central Pennsylvanians to support CASA’s mission. A trained CASA volunteer is appointed by a judge to represent the best interest of a foster child or sibling group in court. In any given month, nearly 400 children in Dauphin County reside in foster care settings.

“One crucial way we can all bring light to the lives of foster children is to let them know they matter, that we see them and acknowledge their potential to succeed and support them in their journey,” said Amy Doherty, Dauphin County CASA board member. And, most importantly, that we care enough to invest our hard-earned money to help build a brighter future for them. That is at the heart of our CASA mission.”

Dauphin County CASA Volunteer Wanda Heise of Harrisburg spoke about the challenges facing the sibling group of foster children whose best interests she represents in court. Constraints due to the pandemic make that task even more complex and necessary.

“So much change and so many unknowns for our little ones in foster care mean that our consistency as CASA volunteers is so important,” said Heise. “As a CASA, I have found the meaningful place that I was seeking, and I trust that it will help during this difficult time for children who did nothing to deserve the hand that they were dealt. Please help us to grow the number of CASAs for Dauphin County.”

With 10 days to go in the December campaign, residents and businesses are asked to make online monetary contributions, here. Donors can choose a level of giving that correlates to colorful ornaments and decorations on the tree. They can view the progress of this “Donate-to-Decorate” project also through a “Virtual Giving Tree” video animation on DC CASA’s website.

There are roughly 370 county children currently in foster care. It costs the program about $1,500 a year to train and supervise each volunteer CASA who works directly with a foster child or sibling group.

Nearly 100 percent of the funds donated to DC CASA goes into recruiting, training and supervising the volunteer special advocates. A donation of $125, for example, would cover a week of training and supervising one volunteer. Children with a dedicated CASA do better in school, are more likely to graduate from high school or earn a GED and are more likely to be placed in a permanent home.

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