“Did I Make A Difference Today?”

I retired on 2/1/10 and one of my favorite videos that my company would show to our new management people was a Lou Holtz video.  At the end of the video Lou said that the bottom line was at the end of the day everyone had to ask themselves, “Did I make a difference today?”  During my last year at work everyone would ask me what my plans were when I retired and I would respond, I am not sure but I just want to be able to make a difference.  "I feel very blessed to have found an organization like CASA where all of us are helping to make a difference in the lives of children."
 
CASA and child in court
The first child assigned to me has had a huge impact on me and I would like to share a small part of his story.  When Kyle, age 10, was assigned to me he had been admitted to the hospital and he was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and Cognitive Disorder.  When I read his history and the abuse he had suffered it was no surprise to me that he was diagnosed with these disorders.   CASA provides excellent training but I didn’t know how I could help him since I did not have any training to help me deal with these disorders.  I decided when I met Kyle I would just do the best I could.  
 
Kyle was released from the hospital before I had a chance to visit him and he was sent to a Residential Treatment Center.  When I planned my first visit I didn’t know what to expect.  What I found was an articulate and intelligent child who enjoyed creative and artistic activities.  I also found that since Kyle was not allowed any contact with his family, for a variety of reasons that he had no control over, he had an immense desire for a relationship with others, especially his CASA.
 
During the first year I developed a great relationship with Kyle.  A lasting memory of mine is when I visited him on Thanksgiving.  One of the kids in the group home was sitting while the other kids were playing basketball.  I went over and introduced myself and he said, “I know who you are, you are Kevin, Kyle’s CASA and he talks about you all the time.”  He then looked at me with his big brown eyes and said, “Could you be my CASA?”  
 
When I had Thanksgiving dinner with my family later that day I shared that story with my family.  I can honestly say it was the most meaningful Thanksgiving I have ever had.
 
That is what is so great about being a CASA.  We get as much or more out of the experience than the children we are helping.
 
As for Kyle, I am happy to report that he is doing great.  We had a Staffing Review with the Staff at the Residential Treatment Center and he had improved in all areas.  He received his yearend grades and he had A’s, B’s and two C’s.  The staff said that since Kyle had improved so much in all areas they were recommending to Children Services that Kyle was ready to be placed with a foster family.  Kyle moved in with a wonderful foster family in the middle of November.
 
What a difference a year can make if the child has hope for his or her future.  That is what CASAs do, we give children hope for their future.
 
One of my proudest moments was when they asked at the Staffing Review what family member or significant adult Kyle had an active relationship with and the response was, “Kevin, his CASA.”
 
I am also happy to report that after 2 years Kyle and his sister were reunified with their mom the day before Thanksgiving.
 
That is when I realized what a difference a CASA can make in the life of a child.
 
If you or anyone you know would like to help make a difference in the life of a child you can e-mail info@casacuyahogacounty.org.
 
As one of our CASA volunteers said, “It is about helping a child replace a life of hurt with one of hope.”
 
Our goal is to always have a CASA volunteer for every neglected or abused child. CASA attends many civic events and we even speak at churches, and many people approach our volunteers after and say they appreciate the great work that we do but they don’t think they could do it. The question we have to ask is,

If not You…. then Who?

If you ask CASA volunteers they will tell you they also had concerns but now that they have made the decision to be a CASA volunteer, it is been one of the best decisions they have ever made. It is truly a life-changing experience.