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table of contents
Right now, there are over 20 children who have experienced abuse and neglect waiting for a CASA volunteer to stand up and be their voice.
Are you ready to become a CASA?
4 Letter from the Executive Director
5 Celebrating 30 Years: Our Swearing-Ins
6 2019 Run for the Children Race Recap
8 Gancas Family Spotlight
10 Farewell to MaryAnn and Priscilla
11 Welcome New CASA Supervisors
12 Swearing-In of the Summer 2019 CASA Class
13 Volunteer Spotlight
14 Success Story
15 What We're Loving
16 Inspiration for You
For many CASAs, their proudest moment in the early start to their CASA career is their Swearing-In ceremony. Officiated by a judge from the Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, and witnessed by their friends and family, this special night marks the completion of their training and the start of their CASA service. 1989 saw our first class of volunteers be sworn into service. 2003 saw our largest class ever of 48 volunteers sworn into service. Later in this issue, you'll see our newest class of volunteers on their swearing-in night.
Will you become a CASA and join us for this special and treasured ceremony in 2019? Or will you join us as a family member or friend to a new CASA by referring someone to this great volunteer opportunity?
celebrating our 30th year
Letter from the executive director
1989 to 2019 : Swearing-In new CASAs
Happy summer! I hope that you are enjoying the sunshine and all that accompanies it--the pool, cookouts, late sunsets and (hopefully) vacations.
This newsletter is packed full of great information and recaps of what CASA was up to over the spring. The 9th Annual Run for the Children was a HUGE success and we are already planning for next year's race. Our superheroes did not disappoint this year! Thank you to all who took part by running, walking, donating, volunteering or sponsoring. Please make sure to read about the Gancas family, our event sponsor, on page 8.
The fiscal year ended on June 30th, and I can report that Fairfax CASA served over 300 children in FY19. 114 of those children were new this year. 78 children had their cases close, ending court involvement and finding permanency. 130 dedicated citizens from our community served as CASA volunteers this year.
33% of the children served this year were African American, 34% were Hispanic, 21% were Caucasian.
30% of our new cases were impacted by opioids. 38% of our new cases involved domestic violence.
41% of our children were under the age of 6 and we served 27 young adults through the Fostering Futures program, ages 18-21.
Thank you for all of your support over the last year. We could not do this important work without you.
We are always searching for new CASAs, particularly those who speak Spanish and males. Please share our newsletter with those in your life who may be interested in joining our incredible pool of volunteers.
Enjoy the rest of your summer!
We are so grateful to everyone who joined us this past April for our 9th Annual Run for the Children! This year was a smashing success thanks to the over 500 runners and walkers, 150 volunteers, 21 sponsors, 57 in-kind donors, and countless community supporters who all contributed. Fairfax CASA was able to raise over $85,000 to go directly to our mission to ensure that every abused and neglected child in our community has an advocate by their side to look out for their best interests.
Women's 8K Race
1. Yuko Whitestone
2. Lisa Muras
3. Elizabeth Fiore
Women's 3K Race
1. Emily Chen
2. Natalie Mitchell
3. Nancy Cline
Men's 8K Race
1. Stephen Gabris
2. Wilco Lagendyk
3. Chris Mondloch
Men's 3K Race
1. Jason Christensen
2. Daren Christensen
3. Andrew Plaka
Girl's 8K Race
1. Lucy Carpenter
2. Kaitlyn Delaney
3. Bonnie Carpenter
Girl's 3K Race Over 12
1. Eliana Sherenco
2. Evie Valenti
3. Maisie Curtin
Girl's 3K Race Under 11
1. Mackenzie Schlussel
2. Calista Sherenco
3. Sydney Lynam
Boy's 8K Race
1. Jackson Ducharme
2. Matthew Rao
Boy's 3K Race Over 12
1. Malachi Brown
2. Joey Valenti
3. Ryan Couillard
Boy's 3K Race Under 11
1. Ryan Koly
2. Cameron Schlussel
3. Coulson Phillips
CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR RACE WINNERS!
2019 Run for the Children
By Darcy Cunningham
gancas Family spotlight
If you’ve run or attended the Fairfax Run for the Children race in the last few years, you’ve seen the names “Rod and Karen Gancas” proudly displayed on our banners and t-shirts. As our premiere sponsors for the last three years, Rod and Karen have generously donated over $100,000 to Fairfax CASA in support of the race and our mission to provide every abused child before the Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court with a CASA Volunteer.
Rod’s cousin Matt Raymond was sworn in as a CASA in Fairfax in 2011, and he provided exceptional advocacy to nine children from four families over the five years he volunteered with the program. Matt’s experience as a CASA helped him to make the decision to leave corporate America and pursue and receive his Masters of Social Work (MSW) degree. He is now working towards his licensure as a clinical social worker. Through Matt, Rod and Karen learned about Fairfax CASA and began supporting us in recognition of the impactful work Matt was doing. Upon completing his last case, Matt joined our Board of Directors while pursuing his MSW. But Fairfax CASA is not the first organization that the Gancas family has embraced and supported. In fact, their generosity and compassion for others began many, many years ago and has taken them on quite a journey.
Rod and Karen grew up together in the Pittsburgh area. They married 34 years ago, when Rod was in the United States Marine Corps (USMC). Upon completing his tour with the USMC, Rod attended the Wharton School of Business while working full time and Karen took care of the home and their first two children, Robyn and Jonathan. While waiting for the bus one day, Karen noticed another passenger, “Wendy” who Karen described as “just covered in black and blues.” Karen immediately asked Wendy what she needed—what could she and Rod do to help her. That conversation resulted in Karen and Rod taking in Wendy’s two very young children into their two bedroom townhome for over three months while she recovered from her injuries and extricated herself from her abuser. This experience was extremely eye opening, according to Karen, as it taught her a great deal about domestic violence. It also reinforced that they were able to help others and fill the gaps of need.
Once Rod completed his education at Wharton, he began working in Manhattan and the family moved to a New Jersey suburb. There Karen began volunteering at the local soup kitchen and soon joined its Board of Directors. Their family increased to six when twins Haley and Ian were born, and Karen and Rod always made sure to expose their children to the plight of others and reinforce their ability to help. Whenever the children’s schools had a drive or charity mission, Rod and Karen made sure to support it fully. They lived in New Jersey for 18 years and then moved to Monaco, where Rod began his own company.
Because of their successes in business, the Gancas Family has been able to provide life saving assistance to many, many people across the globe. Their philanthropy has benefitted children, students, those in crisis and poverty. Living in Monaco, Rod and Karen have had an opportunity to help refugees who have arrived on the shores with just the clothes on their backs. Since 2015, Europe has witnessed a massive refugee crisis, with hundreds of thousands of migrants fleeing their home countries in the Middle East and North Africa to escape violence and poverty.
Through a friend in Monaco, they learned about the Chances for Children Foundation, an organization in Uganda for orphaned children started by Martin Male. Karen describes Martin as a man who was also an orphan, raised on the streets of Uganda until someone finally helped him. He returned to the streets to help children like himself, and took orphans in, providing them with meals and shelter. His kindness and vision grew and Chances for Children opened a school, took in more orphans and expanded its programming, but lacked many resources for these vulnerable, often sick, children. Karen and Rod were so touched by what Martin was doing that they purchased a home for the organization in Uganda that now houses 56 children. In addition, they purchased four vans to transport the children to and from school and they sponsor two of the orphans on an ongoing basis. She expressed that because someone showed Martin compassion and helped him, he has gone on to help hundreds of children. The impact of helping one person is not lost on the Rod and Karen. “Educating and helping the children is the goal. Helping kids can just change the world. It is so important to help children so that they can grow and thrive,” said Karen. “These children will never be on the streets again.”
Robyn and Jonathan both graduated from Cornell University and Karen and Rod decided to do something to help future students at the university, because of the impact it had on their children. They endowed a scholarship for a student with a disability, to take some of the pressure off of the costs of secondary education and help a student.
The Gancas family’s outlook of “we are blessed and really have a duty to give back and help others” has impacted hundreds of children and families across the globe. We are grateful to have been a recipient of their kindness and a part of their giving.
farewell to maryann and priscilla!
On Thursday, May 30th, CASA volunteers, staff and members of the community gathered to wish Priscilla and MaryAnn the very best as they embark on the next chapters of their lives. After 13 years (each), they are moving on from CASA. Priscilla and her husband, Sassan, are beginning their journey as foster parents and we all agree that any children placed in their home will not only be incredibly lucky, but incredibly loved. MaryAnn is going to enjoy this next phase of her life in retirement, traveling and eventually moving back to her home state of New Jersey, after a long and successful career. Both Priscilla and MaryAnn were instrumental in building relationships within our community, providing exceptional supervision to our volunteers and in creating the atmosphere and culture that is Fairfax CASA. They will be deeply missed.
Tara comes to us from the private sector where she worked as a project and relationship manager for a healthcare technology and consulting firm. She is very excited to combine her business experience with her passion for helping children in her community. Tara enjoys spending time with her husband and three teenage daughters and playing with their newly adopted puppy. She is also passionate about the Stella Marina ministry at her church which raises funds for expectant mothers in Haiti and provides them with items needed for a clean and safe birth. When not in the CASA office or with her family, you will find Tara either in the water, on her bike or running the trails of Fairfax County.
Dawnee Giammittorio is thrilled to be a part of Fairfax CASA’s mission of advocating for abused and neglected children. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law (J.D.) and its College of Arts & Sciences (B.A. English.) After a brief stint of big firm law practice, she was a stay at home mother for many years. She has held an odd assortment of part time jobs, most recently as a government affairs consultant for a non-woven fabrics trade association. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, Pilates, playing with her crazy Airedale Terriers, and reading. Dawnee and her husband, Greg, live in Falls Church.
welcome new casa supervisors!
CASA is thrilled to welcome 4 new CASA volunteers and 2 new supervisors to our CASA family. After completing over 35 hours of in-depth and diverse training, and shadowing a current CASA during a court observation, these Court Appointed Special Advocates were sworn in on June 26th by The Honorable Chief Judge Todd Petit.
Ashleigh: How did you initially find your way to CASA?
Pinar: My family and I moved from overseas and I was staying home with my son. I wanted to do something useful with my time and found CASA through a volunteer website.
Interview by Ashleigh Conrad
Ashleigh: How do you pass the time when you're not doing CASA work?
Pinar: Right now, I am getting ready to go back to school to study law.
Ashleigh: Besides the impact of court reports, what other aspect of CASA work do you believe has the biggest positive impact on the children and families you work with?
Pinar: I believe that being a constant figure in the child's and family's life has a very positive impact. When we are working with this family, they are in a place where there are lots of people coming and going - through meetings, service providers, case transfers, and so much more. CASAs become the one constant person who will always remain by the child's side during this time.
Ashleigh: Since you're going back to study law, do you think you will have any focus in family law given your time with CASA?
Pinar: CASA is probably the main reason why I decided to go back to school! After seeing what a real and positive impact those involved in the Court system can have on children and families, it propelled me towards law.
From left to right: CASA Kevin Weir, Supervisor Dawnee Giammittorio, Supervisor Tara Shimp, CASA Diane Rector, The Honorable Chief Judge Todd Petit, CASA Erica Scott, CASA Suzanne Madormo-Smith.
Ashleigh: What would you say to someone considering becoming a CASA volunteer?
Pinar: The court reports that we prepare as CASAs have a real impact, and the judge refers to them several times in our hearings. The work you do really has an impact in a child's life.
Ashleigh: What has been a memorable moment in your CASA work so far?
Pinar: Seeing my now one and a half year old CASA child try to say my name! (Pinar has been advocating for this little guy since he was about 6 months old!)
CASA Volunteer, Pinar Ertruan Tumel with her son
Pinar Erturan Tumel is one of our newer CASA, having been sworn in just under a year and a half ago in February of 2018. During her short time as a CASA, Pinar has been crucial in working not one, but two cases, and in helping prospective CASAs to understand what it takes to be an advocate, as an Information Session volunteer.
welcome summer class 2019!
what we're loving
Researching and sharing relevant and current information about all aspects of child welfare is staff member Ashleigh Conrad's social media wheel house. She's recommending the ACES Connection and their continually updated blog as an internet hot-spot for the latest child welfare news viewed through a trauma informed and ACEs informed lens. Visit www.acesconnection.com to check out their fresh content!
*Name changed in order to protect confidentiality.
In 2013, Jared,* along with his two siblings, came into foster care following a referral in which it was reported that the children were living in a car with their mother and her paramour. His mother was reportedly struggling with substance abuse, and the children were subjected to physical abuse and extreme neglect. During his time in foster care, Jared was placed in three different foster homes and separated from his siblings. Despite Jared's struggles with his foster home placements and challenges in school, he was determined to succeed. As a teen, he was able to secure a part-time job thanks to the Empowering Youth through Employment (EYE) program and he worked diligently in school. This past June, Jared graduated from high school, marking a major life achievement. Shortly after, he moved into an independent living apartment, began a job working in health care, and he recently completed his orientation at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) where he will participate in the Great Expectations Program and where he plans to major in psychology. We are so proud of Jared and know his resilience will benefit him throughout his life!
This issue's book recommendation comes from Executive Director Darcy Cunningham. Educated is Tara Westover's memoir of growing up secluded with her survivalist family and not seeing the inside of a classroom until the age of 17. Pursuing her education to Harvard and Cambridge, Tara reflects on her upbringing and the effect it had on her, while also examining the effect her educational separation had on her family.
as told by one of our case supervisors
"The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention."