The Court Appointed Special Advocates of Grayson County have begun their fundraising season. The group held its Chocolate Indulgence kickoff Saturday at the new 903 Brewers location at 1002 Walnut Street in Sherman.

CASA is a group of volunteers who work as liaisons between children in foster care, Child Protective Services, and other professions involved in court cases. Chocolate Indulgence is an auction, raffle and party where donors indulge in sweet treats while raising money for the general operation of the organization.

The 20th Chocolate Indulgence fundraiser will be held Feb. 10. Saturday’s event was to generate sponsorship for the February event.

“We are hoping to get more people at the event,” CASA Executive Director Natalie Jamison said. “Every year we have a silent and live auction and this year we are going to add a casino lounge to the event. People can purchase to get into the casino lounge. There will be a drawing in the casino lounge. It is going to be fun.”

Last year, the CASA event had almost 400 people in attendance. This year, Jamison hopes to have 600 people attend.

“When this event began 20 years ago, it was held at Kelly Square in Sherman,” she said. “It was a dinner. It has just grown from there. Now, we are at the Hilton Garden Inn. The auction has gotten better every year. Each year its bigger and better. We want to make this the best since it’s our 20th.”

Jamison said the community has always done a good job of standing behind CASA, but there is more work to be done.

“Any time that we have a wish list, the community is willing to step up and help us out,” she said. “We now have 70 volunteers working for us, getting out there and talking to child, and being willing to testify for them every month. The community is overwhelming in its response to us. We could not ask for a better county to be in.”

To cover all of the children in the foster care system in Grayson County, Jamison said CASA needs at least 100 more volunteers.

“The number one thing we need is volunteers,” she said. “We still have children that are in care in the foster system that do not have a CASA worker. If anyone wants to do anything for us, come volunteer. It is a commitment, but it is worth it. The kids get something out of it. Our volunteers get a lot out of it too.”

The affect of the work that CASA workers do is about more than the child, Jamison said.

“We want the kids to know that just because they went into care, does not mean that they will not be successful adults,” she said. “… They will have children one day. They will be a part of our school system. They are going to be a part of our community. We want to give them the best chance possible. Regardless of whether they went into foster care should not make a difference. We should not let them be lost.”

Many children in the foster system, Jamison said, will say that the only person that was there for them, that they saw on a monthly basis who spoke up for them was their CASA.

“It is important for them to know that there is someone that cares for them,” she said. “Regardless of whether you are 8 or 80, you want that. So if they know that we are willing to come and talk to them every month or go to court and find out what they are actually wanting it is important. We are here for that. We want the judges to have all the information that they can to make the best decision for these kids. We want them to know what the children want.”

Other area children’s service organizations like the Child Welfare Board and the Children’s Advocacy Center had booths at the CASA kickoff party. Children’s Advocacy Center Development Coordinator Abigail Hill said the reason the advocacy center wanted to support CASA is that they all have the same goal.

“CASA does amazing work for the children in the court system,” she said. “We cannot do it without each other.”

There were more than 500 confirmed abuse cases in Grayson County last year, Hill said.

“At the end of the day, the money is what keeps everyone up and running,” she said. “Without funding, we would not be able to help these children. It’s not just about the time, it’s about the funding as well.”

Pop Around the Corner owner Derrick Roberts said his business will always support CASA because he understands the value of the work that they do. Both of Roberts’ children were adopted.

“We adopted my son three years ago and we adopted my daughter two years ago,” she said. “I love CASA. I love CPS. If there is anything my wife and I can do to help to support other children, we are going to do it.”

Roberts said it nice that there is an adult who gets no money but wants to speak on behalf of children.

“We want children to know that they are loved,” he said. “God is going to be there to help take care of them. God has a plan and a purpose for this. Speaking for both of my children, they were both in foster care for year. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. There are people willing to help in this time of trouble and uncertainty so that they know when their life does get back on track, there was a plan for it all. Organizations like CASA speak for children when they need someone to stand for them.”