Each year the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program in Judicial District 16, which includes Dodge City, reaches out to local businesses and organizations asking them to 'adopt' a CASA child for the holiday season.
By adopting a child they agree to provide toys and other gifts for the children to open on Christmas morning.
"All the children in the CASA program have suffered from abuse and neglect," Gretchen Webster, volunteer coordinator for CASA said. "So we try to make the holidays as happy as possible for them."
Children in the program give a list of things they want for Christmas to their CASA volunteer; this list is then passed on to the business that has adopted that child.
"We tell the volunteers that the lists are just suggestions," Webster said, "I mean some of the items are going to be hard to find, so if they find something close that's what matters."
CASA volunteers started calling local businesses earlier this month and at first had little success.
"I was worried we weren't going to be able to find enough people to adopt these children," Webster said. "We've had an increase in children in the program too, so we need more volunteers to buy more presents than ever before too."
But, because they got the word out early, CASA has been able to find businesses to adopt each of the 42 children CASA currently serves.
"The phone rings constantly with people asking if they can adopt a child for Christmas," Webster said, "I have to tell them that we already adopted them all out. But, we will always accept more donations."
Although plenty of sponsors are out there getting presents, the children still have a lot of needs to met throughout the year.
"It'd be so nice to have items on hand for when we get children," Webster said, "Or items that the children can use throughout the year."
Webster suggested donating new or like-new clothing and toys, coats of all sizes, games, puzzles DVDs or VHS tapes. If you have something you would like to donate bring it to CASA's Dodge City location at 2008 1st Ave. or call (620) 225-1278 if you have questions about what items they need. Webster asks that you call before bringing in clothing.
"We'd even take wrapping paper, tape and bows to wrap all the gifts in," Webster added.
What is CASA
CASA is a nonprofit organization run almost entirely by volunteers who advocate the best interests of children in the judicial system.
"We believe that children are worth saving," Webster said.
Volunteers are appointed on a case-by-case basis by the court. They go to all court hearings or meetings with the children, and meet with them at least one or two times a month to get to know the children on a personal level.
Page 2 of 2 - "Our volunteers develop a close relationship with the children, so that they can make recommendations to the judge in the best interest of the child," Webster said. "Volunteers know more about the children and have a better understanding than a judge could get while in a hearing."
The local CASA can serve any child in the 16th judicial district which includes Clark, Comanche, Ford, Gray, Kiowa, and Meade counties. Currently there are two full time staff members, and 12 volunteers working on cases, another is in training. They are always looking for more volunteers. For more information about becoming a volunteer visit www.kansascasa.org/district16