Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children raised over $125,000 at their Community Awareness events on Oct. 17, 2018. The annual fundraising events, a breakfast at the ICONA Avalon Resort and a lunch at Greate Bay Country Club in Somers Point featured special guest speaker, New York Times best-selling author and former foster youth Ashley Rhodes-Courter.
Rhodes-Courter was born to a single, teen mother in 1985. By the age of three, she was living in Florida's foster care system where she spent almost 10 years being shuttled between 14 homes - some quite abusive - before being adopted from a children's home at the age of 12.
Despite her ordeal, she excelled in school because she believed that, "my education was the one thing nobody could take from me." Early in her life, she felt compelled to advocate for herself and the other children she lived with, particularly in the abusive foster homes. Ultimately, a CASA volunteer was assigned to her case and Rhodes-Courter credits her CASA for helping her become the woman she is today. "In the early days, I thought my CASA Mary was just a well-mannered woman who checked on my progress. Behind the scenes, though, she became my champion, and it would be years before I realized everything that she had accomplished on my behalf."
Rhodes-Courter is now a foster care advocate, foster and adoptive parent who continues the fight for foster children's rights.
In addition to Rhodes-Courter's presentation, four community partners - The Colony Club of Ocean City, Gregory's Restaurant and Bar in Somers Point, the Woodbine Chamber of Commerce and the Charity League of Atlantic County - were honored for their commitment to children and families in our region.
"We are humbled by the generosity and work that has been done over the last 17 years," said Board President E. David Hieb. "We are grateful to the people and businesses who have dedicated their lives, time and money to children in need. With that support, our budget is now over $1,000,000 and we support 260 CASA volunteers and a staff of 14 serving over 650 children. We have reached every milestone with the community right beside us and will continue this journey together until every child living in foster care has a CASA volunteer by beside them."