There's a reason Demetrice Hicks became a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). It's because, when he was only 13 years old and had just been pulled from an abusive home and thrust into the child protection system, it was a CASA volunteer that gave him his life back.
That was the story he shared with the more than 400 child advocates from across the State of Indiana who had gathered at the capital to remind their legislators of work being done on behalf of local victims of child abuse and neglect.
"My CASA was not only my court advocate," Hicks said, "but she was my ultimate champion at a time when I desperately needed one."
Hicks was joined by Indiana Supreme Court Justice Steven David, who spoke to the gathered CASA volunteers about the vital role they play throughout the State in the lives of children like Demetrice.
"But for you, our children would, in many cases, be hopelessly lost in the darkness of abuse and neglect," David said. "You are that shining beacon, you are that light guiding the way, the light at the end of the tunnel."
In the crowd were 13 staff and volunteers from Advocates for Children, the organization which provides CASA volunteers for children in Bartholomew, Decatur, and Jennings counties. The agency just finished a year in which it served 841 local children, an agency record. But with over 300 more children on the waiting list, they had come to Indianapolis to express the urgency of continued support.
"Justice David recalled a quote by President Kennedy," said Rick Scalf, Advocates for Chidlren's Community Outreach Coordinator. " 'One person can make a difference, but everyone should try.' That goes from the legislator in Indianapolis to the local citizen deciding to step up and volunteer. We can all make a difference, as long as we're willing to try."
Advocates for Children is eager to offer local volunteers the opportunity to make their mark. A training class for new Court Appointed Special Advocates will be beginning in April. Those seeking more information about joining the program are encouraged to sign up online, or call the office at (877) 604-9402.