CASA fundraiser held at Los Banos Community Center

mgaytan@losbanosenterprise.comOctober 18, 2013 

— Cathy Keegan said she knew becoming an advocate for children was the right thing to do.

“I felt like I could be a good mentor and help (kids) through difficult things they are going through,” said Keegan, a volunteer with Merced County Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children, or CASA.

CASA was created to help abused and neglected children and non-minor dependents within the court system. CASA trains volunteers to work closely with these kids.

Since Keegan is already a full-time teacher, she knew volunteering as an advocate would be the perfect fit.

“I deal with children all day long,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of experience with kids.”

A fundraiser Saturday for CASA at the Los Banos Community Center brought in nearly 200 people for dinner, raffle prizes and dancing.

“I think it went really well,” said Shar Herrera, CASA executive director.

She said there are more than 60 kids on the Westside who are in the foster care system and are without a connection to CASA.

Currently, there is one advocate from the Dos Palos area and one who travels from Merced to help kids in the Los Banos area.

“It’s better for us to find people in the area to help,” Herrera said.

She also said more than 20 people at the fundraiser expressed an interest in the program.

“Previously we’ve had two other events held on the Westside and the most (interest) we had was 16, so it’s an improvement,” she said. The money will go toward training new advocates and preparing them to work with the youth.

The fundraiser also included raffling off baked goods.

“The dessert auction went really well,” Herrera said, “because it’s all for a good cause.”

PG&E donates to CASA advocate

The Pacific Gas & Electric Co., a sponsor of the fundraiser, awarded Brynn Wolcott, CASA advocate and president of the Happy Feet Foundation, a $5,000 check.

The Happy Feet Foundation is a nonprofit organization that purchases shoes for children in need. Wolcott was surprised and delighted to receive the money - the largest donation ever given to Happy Feet, she said.

“I’m very grateful for them to support a local grassroots nonprofit,” Wolcott said.

The Atwater-based organization will be able to purchase more than 300 pairs of shoes for children throughout Merced County.

Wolcott said this donation is huge for the nonprofit and that it’s much needed since 39 percent of the county’s children live in poverty.

Herrera said it was hard to hide the surprise from Wolcott about the money being donated since Wolcott is at the CASA office in Merced.

“It was hard to keep it from her,” Herrera said. “But it was exciting when PG&E came to us. We are all so very grateful.”

Reporter Marina Gaytan can be reached at (209) 826-3831 ext. 6562 or mgaytan@losbanosenterprise .com.

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