CASA of Los Angeles presented the CASA Lifetime Achievement Award to Renne Bilson at the Third Annual Evening to Foster Dreams Gala on May 12, 2015.
Twenty-nine years ago, Renne decided she wanted to make a difference in the life of a child. She became a CASA volunteer. In the ensuing years, she has made a difference in the lives of forty children.
Renne’s life journey began in New York City where she was a child actress. Her CASA journey began when she moved to California in 1970 to pursue that career. Instead she found a new career. Hoping to make new friends in California, Renne joined an organization called the Orphanage Guild Juniors, a support group for the teenage residents of Maryvale, a group home. Renne did make friends, but more importantly, she discovered she loved being with the teenage girls but she wanted to do more than just make their lives better for a day. Renne contemplated getting an MSW but didn’t want to work full time as her son was young. Then, Jacquie Dolan, founding president of the Friends of Child Advocates, introduced her to CASA. As a CASA, Renne would have a more substantive relationship with each child and have input into the decisions that were being made for that child while still having the flexibility of being a volunteer. It was the perfect match. Renne went through the training, took her first case and knew she had found her calling.
During her twenty-nine years, Renne was regularly assigned the most challenging and complex cases in the system, often involving multiple siblings. She has always been astounded by the tenacity of the children with whom she has worked. Renne’s determined advocacy has resulted in some wonderful success stories. Four different sibling groups were adopted. Renne found the grandmother of a three-year old boy abandoned at an LA hospital in Philadelphia; they were reunited in Court on Christmas Eve. There were other wonderful family reunifications that happened despite long odds. There were kids who made it to college. Renne has attended her kids’ weddings and baby showers. And, sometimes, she has visited kids in juvenile hall and then jail as young adults; the trauma of their early abuse too hard to overcome. Even with those kids, she knows her relationship with them had impact.
Renne’s commitment to CASA does not end with her direct advocacy for the children. Renne served on the Board of Directors of CASA of Los Angeles, serving as President from 1994-1996. Renne also served three terms on the Board of Trustees of the National CASA Association. Renne is active in supporting the Los Angeles CASA program in many other ways including interviewing prospective volunteers, participating in training, and serving as a media spokesperson.
In 1993, Renne was honored as the CASA Volunteer of the Year in Los Angeles. In 2011, she was chosen as the Community Volunteer of the Year by the Los Angeles Association of Fundraising Professionals.
Renne is married to Bruce Bilson and has one son, Drew Stauffer. Drew’s wife, Liz, is the Volunteer Coordinator at CASA/LA.
Renne believes she always makes a difference in each child’s life. Sometimes the difference is small but sometimes it is huge.