Sorority brings awareness to child abuse and neglect

Delaney Vierkandt

Ninety seven shirts hung in front of a tear-filled audience as 12 candles were lit. 85 of these shirts represented children who had died in the past ten years due to abuse and neglect, while the other 12 represented those in the past year.

Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority partnered up with their national philanthropy, Court Appointed Special Advocates for this event Saturday, Sept. 21, which brought attention to child abuse and neglect.

“CASA is our fraternity’s national philanthropy, so every single Kappa Alpha Theta chapter across the United States supports CASA, and we have been for many, many years,” said Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority President Mary Horton. “So as a part of that relationship, we try to do this every year to raise awareness, rather than just money.”

The CASA organization is the fastest growing child advocacy movement in the country.

The gathering began with a short introduction from Horton and Service and Philanthropy Director Alysa Stukel.

The microphone was then turned over to Steve Ward, CASA coordinator, and VeeAnn Cartwright, who brought CASA to Iowa in 1986, who spoke about their experience with the organization and their gratitude towards everyone who supports the program.

“It’s about awareness in the community, because it is a problem,” Cartwright said.

After Ward and Cartwright spoke, Reverend Betsey Thompson read a list of names, along with a short description.

“Kaiden Olea. My dad caused injuries to my head and neck resulting in my death on January 10, 2012,” Thompson said, speaking for the lost children. “Markis Dahms My mother drowned me on February 11, 2012.”

The list went on. With each name that was read, a candle was lit. 

12 girls stood in front of a small crowd, each holding a burning candle. The event ended with a moment of silence.

“I love the candle lighting, that’s probably my favorite part,” Stukel said. “It really represents this past year what has happened through CASA and the children who have been neglected and abused.”

Volunteers through CASA are trained and have three main goals while working with a child. Those goals are to advocate for the child, make regular reports to the judge about the child, and to monitor the case between court hearings (Ward said?)

“You’ve been in this family’s home for a period of 18 months, in and out, and you’ve seen them and been helpful, and you’re really kind of rooting for them,” Ward said. “Like a coach in a way.”

Each volunteer stays with one family for a period of time, which allows the volunteers to really focus on the family they are helping. (attributed?)

Ward and Cartwright both said they feel so gracious to everyone that supports the organization, especially the volunteers.