Category Archives: Newsletter | June 2017

Volunteer Spotlight: Marius & Elise de Waal

“I help abused and neglected children in my spare time, what do you do?” A bumper sticker with those very words made a big impression on Elise de Waal back in 2010. It was a question she carried with her for many years, across an ocean and back. When she and her then fiancé, Marius, returned to the United States from South Africa in 2012, she knew she had to answer that call for help. Lucky for us, she sold Marius on the idea as well.

When Elise and Marius began training to become CASA advocates, Marius began to wonder if he had made a mistake. He was not a “kid person”, he was intimidated by the stories he heard, and frankly, he wanted out. Elise understood as she was scared too. But, she kept asking the question, “If we don’t do it, who will?” Knowing they would be working together as partners, with the support of a CASA supervisor, relieved a lot of their fears. And, after taking their first case that involved three teenage boys, it was easy for Marius to see how important it was for these young men to have a positive, male role model in the their lives.

Nearly five years later, this power couple has worked four cases and made a real difference in the lives of 10 children. They’ve done everything from retrieve a child’s old clothes from a former foster home to fight for new treatment for an overmedicated child to reunite three brothers after months of separation.

As they work full-time (Elise, Financial Controller of Field Agent, and Marius, Senior Account Executive for Team Unilever Shopper), serving as partners means they can share the burden in time commitment and court appearances. By sharing the emotional burden as well, they were surprised at how easy it was for them to serve.

Elise and Marius are willing to share their story as they realize there are people out there who might be asking themselves the same questions they did back in 2012. Could I really make a difference? Do you really need men to serve? What if I mess up? Do I have enough time?

In response, they’d simply ask you, “If you don’t do it, who will?”

National CASA Conference

In March, six members of the CASA of Northwest Arkansas staff joined approximately 1,200 people from across the nation for the annual National CASA Conference. This year’s conference was held in Seattle, the birthplace of the CASA movement forty years ago. The theme, Building Brighter Futures for America’s Abused and Neglected Children, encouraged a reflection on the network’s strong foundation while emphasizing the need to prepare our teams for challenges in the future.

The three-day conference featured traditional break-out sessions in areas of program development, volunteer recruitment, marketing/fundraising, as well as critical issues impacting child welfare. Beyond informing, the conference provided an excellent opportunity to be inspired. The highlight of the conference was hearing directly from retired Judge David Soukup, the founder of the very first CASA program in 1977. The Judge shared his goals for the CASA network. First and foremost, he believed that every child in the system should have a CASA volunteer. You can imagine how delighted our staff was to hear that his goal echoed our local vision to serve every child in need by 2020.

The plenary sessions also featured the author of Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance, who reminded CASA supporters to approach these children and their families, often struck by the plague of poverty, with humility. Another memorable speaker was former foster child, Giovan Bazan, who showed how adversity and hardship can provide meaning and purpose in one’s life. He referred to his scars as proof he survived something that was meant to destroy him. You can imagine the impact he left on the audience.

In closing, the conference was an excellent opportunity for our staff to learn and network. But, more importantly, we left with the tools and inspiration to make a more significant impact on the children we serve.

In Good Company

Getting a foster child therapy is a collaborative effort. The judge orders it, the DHS coordinates it, the foster family transports the child, and the CASA volunteer makes sure all of the above happens in a timely manner!

Making sure abused and neglected children are armed with highly qualified CASA advocates is also a collaborative effort. Our organization requires financial support, from across our community, to make sure our volunteers have the training and support they need to make a difference in the lives of these children.

CASA of Northwest Arkansas is fortunate and proud to be sponsored by two corporations, Clorox and Coca-Cola, which not only value community but recognize that collaboration is key to productivity and success.

When asked about their generous support of CASA, they shared:

“It’s a privilege to support a great organization like CASA. With both a manufacturing facility and a sales office here in Northwest Arkansas there are more than 600 Clorox people who call this area home, and we take supporting the community seriously. We’re especially proud of members of our team who volunteer as trained advocates within the CASA organization and hope to continue to build on our connection with CASA.” – Mike Schmandt, Director of Sales, The Clorox Company

“As an advocate and a Coca-Cola employee, I am so proud Coca-Cola supports CASA. Working for a company that encourages and enables employees to make the world a happier and more optimistic place is a blessing. Coca-Cola supports CASA because we know the positive difference CASA advocates make for the children of Northwest Arkansas and we are honored to support such important work. So cheers to the advocates, volunteers and entire team for making our community a safer and happier place for children.” – Andi Pratt, Sr. Shopper Marketing Manager, Coca-Cola

Thank you, Clorox and Coca-Cola teams. Together, we are making the world a better place for the children we serve.


Celebrating Our Volunteers

Board member Chris Mitchell opened the evening by recognizing the enormous sacrifice our volunteers make in order to serve. Benton County Judge Tom Smith shared how valuable CASAs are in helping him make decisions on the bench. After thanking our partners, CASA recognized each volunteer and commemorated their years of service with lapel pins.

After attending Celebration of Success for the second year, CASA volunteer Pam Sweeney said, “It is an honor to serve the children of NWA, and this was a fantastic way to show us we are appreciated and to recognize our time invested. I loved attending Celebration of Success this year and being surrounded by all the people investing their time for the same purpose.”

CASA of NWA would like to thank all of the attendees, board members, and staff for making this a very special evening. We would also like to thank our sponsors who made this event possible: Anheuser-Busch, The Barn at the Springs, Bliss Cupcakes, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, and Trinchero Family Estates.