For most kids, superheroes wear capes, have super strength and fly.
Court Appointed Special Advocates have none of the aforementioned qualities but they are often heroes still the same.
For CASA Executive Director Daphyne Maddox, the need for advocates is something that never goes away. With that in mind, she’s constantly thinking of ways to recruit volunteers and to shine a light on the services her group brings to the table on the behalf of local children.
This year, the CASA SuperHero 5K Run has gone virtual in light of COVID-19.
“This is just a fun virtual run that you can do anyway that you want to do it,” said Maddox.
CASA is a national non-profit program who trains community volunteers to represent abused and neglected kids that go through the family court system. A volunteer is assigned to a child or siblings to make sure the children’s needs are met, said Maddox.
The 5K run is meant for people to think outside the box on what the term “run” means, she said. Some people are participating by rocking in a rocking chair or kayaking.
“We have all been so serious with the election and with COVID, and this is just get out there and be goofy for a little bit,” said Maddox.
Participants can submit photos of their run to CASA’s Facebook page to win prizes in the categories for most unique run, best pet run, best costume, best selfie and best team or family spirit.
Maddox said she hopes people will dress up in superhero costumes or shirts for the run and get their pets involved in the costume. For the best pet run category the human needs to be in the photo with the pet.
“I envision a group of all the marvel characters or the Incredibles, just something where your business or bank got together,” said Maddox.
The prizes will be gift cards to local businesses. She said the gift cards won’t be purchased until the winners of the categories are chosen. Winners will be announced on Nov. 9 either through Facebook or email.
The last day to participate and register is Friday, Nov. 6 with the contest closing at 8 p.m. Registration is $30 per individual with a T-shirt included.
Maddox said they will arrange a T-shirt pick up day at the offices in Crittenden, Henderson and Hopkins counties for local participants to get their shirts. For those participating that live outside of those counties, a T-shirt will be mailed.
CASA will also be taking part in a “No Shave November” fundraiser. Registration is available and costs $30 per individual, which is a dollar per day. Men participating in the fundraiser can sign a commitment form on their website saying they are not going to shave for the month of November.
“It is just a fun way to support CASA,” said Maddox.
This fundraiser was started by Hopkins County Sheriff Matt Sanderson when he was a board member for CASA.
“What we have found, with law enforcement is it is a moral booster, maybe they haven’t been allowed to have facial hair and now they can,” said Maddox.
No Shave November is also a great way for people to talk about CASA and what they do, she said.
The money raised will go toward recruitment of volunteers, screening and training them, and supervising costs. Maddox said they have to continually work to get volunteers.
There are 13 volunteers in Hopkins County right now — with one volunteer about to finish training. Volunteers have to go through 30 hours of training to become an advocate. When social services opens a case, the judge will call on CASA to help represent the child or children.
“They are to listen, spend time with them, see if they can find resources — whatever they can do to try to make the best situation for those kids,” said Maddox.
A volunteer is matched with a child or family. If there are several children in the same household, then the volunteer will work with the sibling group. Maddox said last year about 200 kids were in the family court system in Hopkins County and those were just the ones that were severe enough to make it to court.
CASA volunteers usually do a lot of in-person and home visits. With COVID-19, they had to adjust to video conferencing and phone calls, said Maddox.
“We are starting to get back to doing those in-person visits again, slowly,” she said.
Volunteers are serving between 40-50 children at any time. Maddox said they are trying to recruit more volunteers to prepare for everything opening back up. She expects more kids will need help once they are back at school and face-to-face with people who can identify if they need help.
CASA is currently accepting volunteers who can participate in training taking place in January.
To learn more about becoming a volunteer or to sign up for the fundraisers, visit midwestcasa.org and click on the volunteer tab or events tab.