Good evening.

Thanks for that amazing introduction, Christine, and hugs to my boys, Alex and Adrian.

What a privilege to be sharing the stage with the dedicated crew from Glamour Gowns, Destin Cretton, and the legend in his own time, Bill Cosby!

Thank you to Jim Rishwain, Lou Lucido, Dilys Garcia, and the entire GALA committee.

AND especially a shout out to our CASA staff and the almost 500 CASA volunteers, who deserve to share this award with me tonight.

“The family is the nucleus of civilization,” said the philosopher Will Durant.

Think about that. With all the progress that man has made, the heart of society is still the family.

I was fortunate to grow up with parents who nurtured me & taught me that “being there” is one of the most important concepts in a relationship. I grew up feeling there was a cushion, a place to fall, when life got rough andI knew my parents would love and protect me.

Every individual wants to be seen for who they are – to be respected, feel safe, and know, that they belong.

And foster children are no different in that respect, BUT their lives have taken a serious detour.

They become invisible in society and in our consciousness. Although these children cry out, their voices are not heard. Their lives are the polar opposite of that image of love, safety and belonging.

Instead, their days are filled with court appearances, fear, anxiety, confusion, instability, grief, strangers and often lost siblings.

In essence, it is a road paved with uncertainty. These children have little control over their lives, and are innocent victims in a system that has no beating heart.

You have met my friend, Adrian, who is now 23 years old.

I was appointed to his case when he was 11.

He is here as a survivor, after having bounced around in 10 different facilities — and almost locked up forever when he was 12. Adrian’s only wish was to be united with his siblings who were separated from him when he was 8 years old. It was his CASA and his attorney kept that dream alive. Ultimately, he was reunited and can now enjoy these family relationships for the rest of his life.

They outcomes for these children never fit into any mold. It ranges from pure survival, to family reunification, includes long term foster care and adoption. But, it is not the end result that defines a CASA’s work. It is our constant monitoring, advocating and sheer determination against the odds that distinguishes our efforts. We struggle through the most difficult situations alongside our kids, and we often the only individuals who truly KNOW the child. This allows for a clear perspective and insightful reporting to the court. CASAs follow the children on their journeys, and persevere even with those who never find the loving homes they crave.

Let us be a part of the solution to end this cycle of failure.

It is shocking that 70% of the prison population, 60% of youth involved in sex trafficking, and 40% of the homeless and mentally ill on our streets have been foster children. Our community feels the staggering punch from these statistics daily. Take in those numbers. That is our continuing reality if we do not take these neglected children seriously…NOW.

It is easy to see how our entire community benefits when we look into the eyes of these children and say, We care,
We will work towards your future because we know it is intertwined with ours.

It is my wish tonight that each of you will help those who do not have the power to help themselves. Join our voices that speak on behalf of these kids and please sing a song of hope.

It is an honor to be standing here in front of you. But truly, I’ve already received my reward by seeing the changes I have been able to affect in these children’s lives. My son Dillon, who had a gift for understanding others, wanted everyone to feel equal and relevant in life. We share that vision as CASAs.

I send my love to my daughter Taylor, my husband Steve, and my family and friends who are here supporting me tonight. Thank you.