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CASA Chocolate Auction helps children in need
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Central Kansas CASA Board President Donna Staab, left, and CASA Director Ariella Harrison are shown with a Barbie Dream House, to be sold Saturday at the Central Kansas CASA Chocolate Auction. Tickets to the event are being sold through Wednesday. - photo by photos by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune

A sweet way to help

What: Central Kansas CASA Chocolate Auction
When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 7 (live auction 8 p.m.)
Where: Great Bend Knights of Columbus, 723 Main
Why: Support the non-profit United Way agency whose volunteers serve as advocates for children in court.
If you want to go: Tickets are $35 each and are available by calling the CASA office, 620-792-5544. Wednesday will be the last day to purchase tickets.

Central Kansas CASA will reach a milestone this year, celebrating its 30th year of helping area children. On Saturday, Feb. 7, the nonprofit organization will reach another milestone, holding its 10th annual Chocolate Auction.
The event is a sweet way to help children in need of care due to abuse or neglect. Those who purchase a ticket for $35 will be treated to a chocolate fountain, and chocolate will be featured throughout the evening, from the social hour that starts at 6:30 p.m. to the live auction at 8, said Ariella Harrison, director of Central Kansas CASA.
There’s a little chocolate with virtually every one of the 105 silent auction items or 55 live auction items. With that kind of variety, even those who aren’t crazy about chocolate can find something of interest. This year’s donated items include a gun safe and a football autographed by Kansas City Chiefs Quarterback Len Dawson, who was MVP of Superbowl IV. There is also a Costa Rican trip, and several party packages, Harrison said. For example, the highest bidder on the Boot Scootin’ Party will get a party for 15 couples at the Zimmermans’ barn, complete with spirits, a meal catered by Hudson’s Wheatland Cafe, and music by DJ Jitterbug.

Children in need
All of this fun will lend support to a serious cause. The name CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. A United Way agency, CASA trains volunteers to serve as advocates for children in the court system. A volunteer is assigned to a child, becomes familiar with the child’s case and writes a report.
“The report is what we call ‘the eyes and ears of the judge,’” Harrison said. Its purpose is to make sure that the child’s best interests are being served.
The proceeds from the Chocolate Auction will help the group expand services. There are 18 trained volunteers, but more are needed. “Kansas agencies are at an all-time high for Child In Need of Care (CINC) cases,” Harrison said, adding rural areas have more cases than urban areas. “Barton County is one of the highest filings in Kansas, per capita.”
Applications are being accepted now for volunteer training in March. Potential volunteers need to undergo a background check and an interview before they can take the training.
Anyone interested in learning more about CASA may call the CASA office, 620-792-5544. That is also the number to call to reserve a ticket to Saturday’s Chocolate Auction. Tickets must be purchased in advance and Wednesday is the last day that they will be available.