A sold-out crowd of nearly 350 people packed The Commons in downtown Columbus, IN on Saturday evening, using their voices and their pocketbooks to support a local agency which serves area children who have been the victims of abuse or neglect. Crooners for CASA, a fundraising event to support Advocates for Children, continued to grow in it's third year, raising nearly $60,000.
A Growing Event
At Crooners for CASA, teams of performers don costumes and put on a show in karaoke-style performances, competing to raise money from the crowd. After selling out in it's first year, the event moved from the Mill Race center to The Commons to accommodate the large crowd. This year, the event expanded once again, to include a total of 8 teams performing on the main stage, and once again selling every available ticket.
"I'm excited to see this event keep growing," said Rick Scalf, Community Outreach Coordinator for Advocates for Children. "I think it shows not only that people are having a great time at the event itself, but that this community is committed to making a real difference for the children who need us the most."
A New Twist
This year, Crooners for CASA featured a new twist - "The Wheel of 'Oke." For a small donation, attendees could place the name of one of their friends on a wheel at the front of the room. At various points during the open mic section of the event, the wheel would spin and the person whose name came up was called up to sing a song of their choice.
Not everyone fancies themselves a karaoke star, of course, so for a slightly larger donation, they had the option of purchasing "insurance," to guarantee that they wouldn't be thrust into the limelight.
This new portion of the event raised over $2,000 dollars in additional donations to the agency.
A New First
The groups performing at the event compete in tree categories - Best Costumes, People's Choice (most votes overall), and the Grand Prize (most money raised).
The award for Best Costume went to "3 American Idol Finalists," a group comprised of John Sadtler, Rick Kramer, Cameron Wilson, for their performance of "Dancing Queen."
The People's Choice award went to "Radio Up," a group consisting of Kelly Benjamin, Scott Benjamin, Charlie Farber, Jayne Farber, John Fairbanks, Mike Johnston, Kota Benjamin, Keagan Benjamin, who performed an excellent rendition of "Chicken Fried."
Throughout the evening, the lead for the grand prize was held by "Rockin' Rossetti and his Homerun Hotties." The group, which composed an "Opening Day Medley" of baseball themed songs, got the crowd on it's feet with balls being tossed back and forth from the stage, glowsticks waved in the air, and peanut vendors wandering the room. However, in the closing moments of the event, several last minute donations closed the gap, resulting in a new first for Crooner for CASA - a tie!
The Grand Prize for the night was awarded to both "Rockin Rossetti" and "3 American Idol Finalists."
A Vital Mission
Advocates for Children serves abused and neglected children by providing them with Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers, who promote the children's best interest during their time in the child protection system. Last year, the agency served 647 children in Bartholomew, Decatur and Jennings counties, providing more 29,000 hours of advocacy. But with the number of abuse and neglect cases across the state continuing to grow in the face of an ongoing epidemic of untreated addiction, the agency also has another 300 children currently on it's waiting list.
That's what makes the people who support Advocates for Children so important, Scalf said.
"When people read the stories in the paper," he pointed out. "what's often left out is the impact on the families, and especially the children, who are struggling just to keep their lives together. These kids find themselves in the system through no fault of their own, and they need a stable, qualified adult, who can make sure that their interests are always front and center. That someone is a CASA volunteer."
The funds raised at events like Crooners for CASA go directly to train and support advocates who serve these children, he said.