The Incredible Zooming CASA Gala

You rarely hear a discouraging word about Court Appointed Special Advocates of Travis County. Except, perhaps, that they lack adequate resources to offer a volunteer to help every abused or neglected young person enmeshed in the judicial system. That’s changing.

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Michael Tyler Pelham and Laura Black at CASAblanca.

These days, 80 percent of those who are removed from homes earn a trained volunteer — not a lawyer or social worker, per se — to observe the biological family, relatives and others to help a judge decide where the kid belongs. The process usually takes a year. But volunteers call it as a life-changing experience.

One good sign: CASA’s benefit events just keep growing. The latest CASAblanca filled the fourth-floor banquet room at the JW Marriott. Spokeswoman Callie Langford told me they wanted to raise $600,000 that night. When speakers rose to talk, everyone fell silent. Not customary for Austin galas.

I spent a good deal of time with some generous and thoughtful donors. And I caught up with the ever-evolving Steven Phenix, who seems to reinvent himself every few years. Now he works for The Refuge, which gives hope to survivors of sex trafficking, while volunteering for Bikers Against Child Abuse, which protects children in ingenious ways.

Note: An earlier version of this post got the name of the group wrong.

 


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