Gary Paryzek

CASA volunteer, Gary Paryzek, knew that once he retired, he wanted to find a way to volunteer his time.

While he knew he wanted to center that volunteer work around children, he wasn’t completely sure what organization he wanted to work with. In 2020, Gary was officially sworn in as a CASA volunteer. This month he celebrates his 4th CASAversary and is serving his sixth and seventh cases simultaneously.

Gary took some time recently to share some of what motivated him to commit to being a CASA volunteer, and the journey that brought him here.

CASA: Tell us a bit about yourself!

Gary: My wife, Krisi, and I have been married for 36 years and have three children, one son-in-law, and one grandchild. I was born and raised 20 miles southwest of downtown Chicago, relocating to Rogers, AR with my parents and sister in 1975.

Before graduating from Rogers High School in 1977, I began working for Walmart in 1976, at the age of 16, and retired 43 years later in 2019, spending the last 26 years in the International Division. This diverse career provided opportunities to live and work in more than 10 cities, large and small, in three states and participate in projects – both short and long-term- in 23 countries and Puerto Rico.

CASA: How did you hear about CASA for the first time?

Gary: My first exposure to CASA was in February 2018, when my oldest daughter became a volunteer for Douglas County CASA in Lawrence, KS. In November of that same year, I attended CASA of NWA Light of Hope breakfast for the first time as a guest. These two events served as the catalyst to establish and define my post-retirement volunteer direction.

CASA: What makes you continue to serve as a CASA volunteer?

Gary: The opportunity to support, expand, and amplify the voices of the children for which I advocate. To potentially add lasting value to the lives of others to whom, without CASA , I would not be otherwise exposed. The idea that I just might contribute –even incrementally – to improving a child’s chances, perhaps occasionally having an impact across more than one generation.

Selfishly, I’m learning a lot – formally and informally – from courts, judges, attorneys, DHS, support services, structured continuing education, CASA Staff and Board of Directors, etc., and, most of all, the children.

I am developing an enhanced awareness of the realities and challenges faced by multiple families in our communities and how difficult it can be to break a cycle.

CASA: What is your favorite thing about being an advocate?

Gary: Seeing the resilience, and openness of most of the children. The examples they can set for the rest of us, especially the adults.  The possibilities presented through actively participating in broad aspects of the children’s environment; in witnessing the development of a more positive child-parent bond, and a healthier overall relationship.

CASA: What would you tell someone who is considering becoming a CASA volunteer themselves?

Gary: Understand the need in our four-county area. Do some research. Review the statistics. (AR Department of Health and Human Services – DCFS – 2022 Statistical Report)

Understand that it is not easy. Understand that it requires a commitment.

Be honest with yourself. Be comfortable with your determination and capacity to commit. There are children that are waiting for your support.

Gary also shared:

“It was during my first case that I learned the impact of being holistically immersed across the children’s multiple environments. After only 8 months, as that case drew to a close, a 3-year-old child was greeting me by name, handing me toys, and asking me questions. She had very quickly learned to recognize that when she saw me, wherever it may be, that I was there to pay attention to her. Every time.”

If you’re ready to join Gary and make a sustainable, positive impact in the life of a child, visit our website to learn more.