Hoedown brings in $15K for CASA

By Thaddeus Miller / tmiller@losbanosenterprise.comOctober 25, 2012 

A cowboy strummed his guitar, gunslingers hit their marks and revelers in boots stomped as the sun set on the prairie Saturday.

The Wild West Hoedown, a Court Appointed Special Advocates fundraiser, rode through town last week to raise awareness and money for the program meant to look out for the best interests of abused and neglected children within the court system.

"We're supporting almost 60 children in Merced County, and that's from zero two years ago," said Anna Brooks, a CASA board member. "So, we're so proud of our organization."

There are an estimated 600 foster children in the county.

Shar Herrera, executive director of Merced County CASA, said Hoedown brought in $15,000 from the raffles, admissions and the dessert auction.

The money remains in Merced County and goes to support the training of child advocates, who require a minimum of 40 hours of training prior to beginning casework and 12 hours of continuing education each year.

Raising money is half of the battle, Herrera said; the other half is drawing new advocates.

"There were three who requested information," Herrera said, referring to event-goers.

Herrera estimated 200 people were in attendance.

In keeping with the night's theme, the Golden State Gunslingers of Los Banos demonstrated cowboy-fast-draw shooting, partygoers paid to put their friends in "jail" and Tim Johnson and The Sierra Cowboy Riders played their throwback style of Western music, similar to Marty Robbins or the Sons of the Pioneers.

Shirley Napolitano, an advocate based on the Westside, said she and her counterparts spend many hours in training to meet the needs of their wards. She said the training is necessary to advocate for the children in the courtroom, with a social worker or at school.

"It's very serious work we do; we're not Big Brothers Big Sisters," Napolitano said, adding that the judge often brings advocates into his or her chambers.

"We're always being re-educated, we're always learning more."

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562.

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562.

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