MANCHESTER — CASA of N.H. capped off its 26th year with its annual celebration honoring CASA advocates and community partners for their dedication to improving the lives of the state's abused and neglected children.
In addition to honoring 41 advocates for milestone years of service – 26 five-year advocates, nine 10-year advocates and six 15-year advocates – CASA also awarded its honorees for its second annual Judge of the Year Award – the Hon. Susan Ashley, out of Rochester Family Court – and third annual John McDermott Champion of Children Award – Kristy Lamont, Permanency Planning Coordinator for the Court Improvement project.
CASA also recognized three board members, stepping down after numerous years on the Board of Directors – Gerri Moriarty of Hollis, Patty Tollner of Nashua and Lynn Photiades of Bedford, while welcoming five new members who've joined the board – Judy Bergeron of Portsmouth, Arthur Bruinooge of Hollis, Kathy Christensen of Amherst, Benjamin Gaetjens-Oleson of Lancaster, and Linda Lovering of Meredith.
"Tonight, we celebrate another year of hard work. A year of brilliant successes and challenges beyond measure," CASA CEO and President Marty Sink said in her opening remarks to the more than 200 volunteers, family, friends and colleagues present at the celebration. "We celebrate the commitment of hundreds of people, past and present, and their tireless advocacy."
Two former CASA youth who spoke to the gathered guests earned standing ovations as they shared their successes that have been marked by the guidance of the CASAs in their lives. Dakota, 19, proudly shared that despite believing at 16 that she had little hope for a successful future, she is entering her sophomore year of college, due in large part to the encouragement she earned from her CASA and foster family.
Madison, 17, was adopted just hours before the evening event at the Manchester Country Club, and he also shared that he is bound for New York City next year to attend college, a dream he didn't know he had until he found stability with his adoptive family. Both teens expressed their sincere gratitude not only to their CASAs, but to the judges on their cases who they said took great care and consideration when listening to what they wanted for their futures.
In his remarks before swearing in CASA's newest advocates, the Hon. Edwin Kelly spoke to the importance of his and the state's other judges' duties to examine the facts of the case and make decisions based on the best information that can be gathered in a case.
"The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind world that it leaves to its children," Kelley said, quoting Dietrich Bonhoeffer. "Every person in this room is meeting that challenge day, after day, after day."
CASA of N.H. is a statewide, nonprofit organization that strives to protect every abused child's right to live, learn and grow in the embrace of a loving family. CASA's trained volunteers advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children who've come to the attention of New Hampshire's family court system through no fault of their own. Learn more about CASA at www.casanh.org or call 800-626-0622.