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Annual chocolate auction helps children
a CASA auction
Central Kansas CASA Director Caitlyn Eakin and crew are getting ready for the annual CASA Chocolate Auction. Shown here at Thursdays Great Bend Chamber of Commerce Coffee are, from left: Eakin; Cindy Meter, program assistant; Shellie Thill and Donna Staab, board member. - photo by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune

The staff and volunteers at Central Kansas CASA say they aren’t experts at throwing parties.
“Our day job is really bringing hope to children who deserve it so much,” said Donna Staab, a Court Appointed Special Advocate and member of the area CASA’s board of directors.

The mission of this United Way partner is “giving a voice to abused and neglected children in Kansas.” But only 20 percent of its budget comes from the state, so once a year CASA supporters throw the sweetest fundraiser in town. The 13th Annual CASA Chocolate Auction promises to continue the tradition. Tickets are on sale now for the event that runs from 6:30-11 p.m. on Feb. 3 at the Great Bend Events Center.

A chocolate fountain is always a centerpiece of the annual event, said Shellie Thill, also with CASA. Food is included in the price of admission, and this year people will be able to dip bacon in the chocolate. “Doesn’t that sound wonderful?” Thill asked.
“Every item that we have has chocolate with it,” Thill continued. And there’s “something for everyone” at the auction: trips and sports memorabilia and restaurant gift certificates — “and did I mention chocolate?”
Once again there will be 50 special chocolate cupcakes for sale and the person who buys the right cupcake will also win diamonds. People can also buy chocolate martinis.
New this year is a raffle for a four-night stay at a condo in Winter Park, Colo.

Helping children
Central Kansas CASA helps the Children In Need of Care in the 20th Judicial District — Barton, Russell, Stafford, Rice and Russell counties. When a child enters the court system, a judge may appoint a trained CASA volunteer to become an advocate for the child’s best interest.
Director Caitlyn Eakin said some of the money raised goes for salaries. Other expenses include screening and training volunteers. Central Kansas CASA has also sponsored some community programs on subjects such as human trafficking and how parents can protect their children online.
In the three years Eakin has been here, the number of volunteers, or CASAs, has increased from 20 to 28. Another round of training will be offered this spring.
However, she is only allowed to manage 15 active cases at any time, so if the number of volunteers grows CASA may eventually want to hire a part-time assistant director, she said.

Information about training or about CASA Chocolate Auction tickets can be found by calling the CASA office, 792-5544, or find the Central Kansas CASA page on Facebook. Tickets are $40 each and may also be purchased at the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce office.