Community members were able to treat themselves to a little fun and support the fight against child abuse and neglect Saturday night with CASA of Grayson County's annual Chocolate Indulgence fundraiser.
The event, held at the Texoma Event Center in Denison, aimed to raise money for the Court Appointed Special Advocates group's general operations with auction items, a raffle drawing and donations, which guests were happy to provide and take part in as they sipped cocktails, socialized and enjoyed sweet chocolate treats.
“It's just a great time,” CASA Executive Director Natalie Jamison.
With the fundraiser in its 19th year, Jamison said the organization and its mission have always been well supported by the community and pointed out the crowd of nearly 400 guests was proof of that. Jamison said CASA ultimately wasn't focused on a number of dollars raised at Saturday night's event, as she said there were still some very important figures to look at.
“Our volunteers helped us log 3,467 hours of service in 2016,” Jamison said. “And since 1993, we have advocated for and helped more than 2,000 children. Those are numbers we really care about.”
Jamison explained that child abuse and neglect are on the rise in Grayson County and said the increase correlates with the county's growing population. She said issues pertaining to the welfare of children know no bounds and encouraged the community to be mindful for the sake of all the county's kids.
“Unfortunately, child abuse isn't a problem limited to only certain people in the community or related to how much money someone makes,” Jamison said. “It spans all different socio-economic groups.”
Sherman resident and mother of two Sarah Pierce attended the fundraiser with her husband, as well as a number of close friends and said she was glad to see the high turnout and the show of support.
“It's amazing to know that all these like-minded people are here tonight and that they're willing to help and intervene for the good of the children and their families,” Pierce said.
Pierce said that as a parent, she believes that all mothers, fathers and guardians can benefit from supportive social programs and family education opportunities. She said that abuse and neglect are often passed down from one generation to the next, but said it only takes one person or one group to step in and break the chain.
“There's a cycle,” Pierce said. “If we're raised a certain way or we're taught a certain way — particularly in an unhealthy way — that tends to trickle down to our children. That's just not fair but we can put an end to it.”
Grayson County Assistant District Attorney Britton Brooks, who is soon to be the proud parent of a baby girl himself, said he sees issues stemming from child abuse and neglect all too often in the court system. He did however express optimism that the community is becoming more and more informed of the issue.
“I think the most important thing is awareness,” Brooks said. “You can't solve the problem unless you understand it and we're one step closer to doing that tonight.”
As she stood outside the dining and dance hall, welcoming the last of the guests to the fundraiser, Jamison said she's always thinking about the children her organization aims to help. She said of all the cases CASA of Grayson County has taken on its 20-plus years, one child's success and the bond he formed with his volunteer advocate will always stick with her.
“There was a child who was in care for three years — that's an extremely long time,” Jamison said. “Although he no longer lives in Texas, we were able to find him a permanent adoptive home and he's really doing well. He had the same CASA volunteer throughout the whole case and that same child still calls to say hello and check in. They formed a long term relationship and that bond is what it's all about.”