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Chocolate for a cause
Experiences on the block at the 9th Annual CASA chocolate auction
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Central Kansas CASA Director Angela Schepmann and volunteers Kim Kummer, and Tanya Staats put the final touches on packages to be auctioned at the 9th Annual CASA Chocolate Auction at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Great Bend Saturday night. - photo by VERONICA COONS, Great Bend Tribune

For a few hours Saturday night, its time to put the New Year’s resolutions aside and indulge in a little chocolate for a good cause at the 9th Annual Central Kansas CASA Chocolate Auction at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Great Bend, said CASA Director Angela Schepmann.
Central Kansas CASA recruits and trains volunteers called “CASAs” who carry out the mission of the organization, to provide abused and neglected children with their own advocate during the time they are under the care of the 20th judicial district.  According to  Schepmann, there is a waiting list of 175 children assigned to their CASA program now.  They serve Barton, Rice, Russell, Stafford and Ellsworth counties.  
Each CASA must be at least 21 years of age, pass a background check and complete 30 hours of training, 15 on site and 15 at home online.  Then, they are paired with a child, and their journey really begins.  There is a training coming up in March, so they hope to rally as many volunteers as they can.
“We’re looking for our CASA Quarterbacks,” Schepmann said.  “Most of our volunteers are women, but especially when we get into the teenage years, it’s nice to have men our boys can turn to.”

Oh, the places you’ll go...
Schepmann, Auction Chairperson Kim Kummer and a group of dedicated volunteers have been busy for several weeks collecting donations, creating colorful baskets and generally “fluffing” to best showcase the thousands of dollars worth of items and services.
This year, in addition to many valuable items, a number of unique experiences will take a turn on the auction block.  Things like trips, catered dinners and parties just to name a few.  
As they were wrapping up some of the final packages Tuesday afternoon, Kummer pointed to one, the “Pinot and Painting” experience.
“Grab 8 of your girlfriends, co-workers or neighbors and have an afternoon of fun,” she said.  “The artist will do a step by step instruction for them.  The canvas and the paint will be provided, and when they leave, they’ll have their own masterpiece, plus they’ll have had a fun afternoon.”  
From a New England Fall Cruise on Carnival to an intimate garden luncheon hosted by Nancy Lang many other experiences will be available.  
And some of Great Bend’s professionals have teamed up to sponsor kids to attend athletic camps.
“Dr. Ross Hildebrand and his wife, Joann, will sponsor two high school aged boys to K-State Bill Snyder football camp and Dr. Leonard Fleske and his wife, Sheila, will sponsor one boy, age 8 to 18 to attend the Bill Sell basketball camp,” Kummer said.  
And even the Great Bend Fire Department is doing their part.  
“They will be donating a private tour of the fire station and a ride in a fire truck for a lucky child,” Kummer said.  “We’re really excited about that too.
The money raised by the event has been steadily on the rise each year, Angela said, thanks in part to their major donors, who include Don and Kathleen Damon, Dave and Sherri Marmie, Andrew and Megan Murphy, P&S Electric, Pawnee County Community Hospital, Schenkel Construction Company, Inc., Jeff and Lorraine Staab, Doris Spray and Venture Corporation, Roy and Marcia Westhoff and Donna Staab, and Douglas County Community Foundation Charles L. Curtiss Memorial Fund.

And all the trimmings
Schepmann said this year they’ll be switching things up a little at the chocolate fountains.  
“In the past, we’ve had one milk chocolate fountain and one dark chocolate fountain,” she said.  “This year, we’ll have one milk chocolate fountain and one white chocolate fountain.”
Only a few tickets for the event are left, Kummer said.  If there are any left by Saturday, they will make them available at the door, but for those that don’t want to leave it to chance, they can be purchased through Angela at the CASA office, or at the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce for $35 each.  
In addition to the auction and the chocolate fountains, light hors d’oeuvres will be served, and chocolate martinis will be available.  
“The VIP table was a popular auction item last year, and will be an especially wonderful to be seated at this year,” Kummer said.   Kim Randall with Baked Blessings will be providing the catering for VIP guests, and Custom Floor in Great Bend is providing the centerpiece for which will be auctioned off later that evening.
Debbie Deutsch, with Cornerstone Interiors is helping with the table decorations on the guest tables.  This is the first time we’ve reached out to a business in the community to help us with our table decorations, Kummer said.  
This is the second year the auction has been held at the Knights of Columbus hall, Angela said.  Doors open Saturday night at 6:30 p.m.  For more information about CASA, call Angela Schepmann at the CK CASA office, 620-792-5544, email at, or visit the website at .