For those who donated to an organization assisting abused children Thursday, they perhaps will never know how much that support means.

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) hosted a spaghetti lunch fund-raiser Thursday at the Gainesville Civic Center.

Vicki Robertson, director of CASA, said the group netted about $4,500 from the lunch. She said that’s money being spent on a good cause, though much of the work being done by CASA for children requiring legal assistance may never be known by the public.

“I just wish people could know what we do for the children,” she said, noting much of what is done for the children is confidential — dealing with counselors, school officials, etc.

Robertson continued: “We love the fundraiser. It gives us a chance to raise awareness of what CASA does.”

She said the group enjoys being out in community, but the most important thing is what is “done under the radar” helping kids that cannot help themselves.

On Monday, the group made its effect on the county known with 103 students from St. Mary’s School representing the 103 students CASA helped in 2005.

Prior to the demonstration on the courthouse steps, volunteers and office staff attended a meeting of the Cooke County Commissioners Court.

Freeman issued a proclamation declaring April 2006 as Child Abuse Awareness Month.

CASA is a seven-year old organization whose mission it is to help abused children in various ways. Founded in 1999, the local group has grown to 29 local volunteers and three paid office staff members — Robertson, office administrator Christy Becker and volunteer coordinator Patricia Doty.

Nationally, the CASA organization helps 280,000 children each year with similar programs to Cooke County’s.

“In 1999 the only voice the children had were attorneys on their side,” she said. “But sometimes the attorneys ad litem were forced to agree to things that weren’t in the best interest of the children. CASA changed that.”

She said, in a nutshell, CASA attempts to be the “eyes and ears” for the court and for the children.

CASA advocates are appointed by a district court judge as a “lay guardian ad litem” to work one-on-one with children who have been removed from their homes and are under the jurisdiction of the justice system, according to a CASA brochure.

Robertson said her main wish is “for there not to have to be a CASA, but that’s not going to happen, yet.”

For now, the CASA office is in want of a new photocopier and more volunteers — preferable Spanish-speaking persons.

CASA hosts an annual fund-raiser and concert, Cowboys for CASA, in July. Robertson said she is hoping for three bands and to expand activities at the summer fund-raiser.

For information or to volunteer call CASA at 665-2244. The CASA office is at 900 N. Grand Ave., Suite 101 (the old Robert E. Lee School building).

Reporter Andy Hogue may be contacted at andyhoguegdr@ntin.net

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