Article originally published on West Side Today on September 24.
By Jennifer Eden
Braving the recent heat wave, over 600 runners recently hit the Century City streets in an annual event to raise money for foster kids in the legal system.
The aptly-named Justice Jog took place Sunday, September 14 in Century City and has its sights on reaching the $100,000 fundraising mark to assist CASA – Court Appointed Special Advocates – of Los Angeles, an organization that helps children in the foster care system.
“People don’t realize the large number of children in our county that are in foster care,” explained Dilys Garcia, Executive Director of CASA Los Angeles. “There are over 28,000 children who are under the jurisdiction of the Dependency Court in LA County.”
Funds raised from the event go toward the recruitment and training of CASA volunteers, advocates who help foster children in need, a cause that is close to the heart of many in the legal profession.
“The runners feel good about running for a charity that supports kids,” said Terri Opplet, President of the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the Association of Legal Administrators (GLA ALA), organizers of the Jog. “We hope to raise $100,000 from the event.”
Last Sunday’s event began with kids’ entertainment and a warm up. Volunteers dressed as Power Rangers regaled the crowd before joining with family and CASA-kids themselves in a host of fun activities, while the legal community and corporate teams took to the pavement.
“Many of the runners are CASA,” Opplet added, explaining that a young man, who had gone through the Los Angeles foster care system with a CASA, proudly opened the event singing the national anthem.
“It makes my hair stand on end to think about it,” Opplet said, adding that the young man, now a student at USC, was beaming from ear to ear.
A total of 59 teams took part in the event and while anyone can join in the day, the bulk of the runners, 38 teams, were from the legal profession. Opplet said that the event is also great for teambuilding, motivation and stress relief.
“Attorneys, staff, partners, small teams and sponsors…the event cuts across the entire firm. Anyone from receptionists to managing partners can run for their team,” she explained.
Organizer GLA ALA’S mission is to provide support, high-quality education and services to professionals involved in the management of law firms, corporate legal departments and government legal agencies. With over 350 members and represents legal managers, the Justice Jog is one of their major fundraising events, and is vitally important for the recipients.
Without the event, programs such as CASA would be unable to continue.
“We depend on the generosity and support of the community for the advocacy that we offer children in foster care,” Garcia said. “The funding directly determines how many kids we can help.”
CASA volunteers serve as “eyes and ears for the judge”, who is essentially acting as their “parent” while they are in care.
The CASA program currently touches about 6,000 children in foster care, with kids who work with a CASA having a much greater chance of making a success in life, compared with those who are on their own, according to Garcia.
“Evidence shows that [CASA] children have more access to the services they need,” she said. “Their overall emotional adjustment is better, they move around in placements less and they come back into the system less.”
Founded in 1978, CASA of Los Angeles is a community-supported non-profit organization whose goal is to mobilize community volunteers to advocate on behalf of abused and neglected children in the overburdened foster care system of Los Angeles County.
“The children have been separated from their families and they need help,” Garcia said, adding that it is the community’s responsibility to ensure their welfare is taken care of.
Donations for the Justice Jog are still open and can be made at casala.org/justicejog.