Gala to help CASA will be a ‘Downton Abbey’ affair

DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR

KINGSLAND — If you’re looking for an excuse to watch a marathon of “Downton Abbey” episodes, tell your family and friends you’re just doing research for a good cause.

And if you attend the 2014 Gala — An Evening at CASA Manor, then you’d be telling the truth.

The Feb. 22 gala, a major benefit for CASA for the Highland Lakes Area, is taking on a “Downton Abbey” theme. For those of you who haven’t heard of or watched the PBS program, it’s a British period drama set in the early 20th century at the fictional Yorkshire estate of Downton Abbey.

“We wanted to create a fun atmosphere the people would look forward to attending,” said Galyn Woerner of CASA for the Highland Lakes. “People can dress in ‘Downton Abbey’ style or not. It’s up to them, and there’s no pressure. Just come planning on having a good time.”

The gala raises money for the local Court Appointed Special Advocates program. CASA provides specially trained volunteers who serve as the eyes and ears of the court for children who have been removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect. These children often are placed in foster care or with a non-offending relative by Child Protective Services.

In court, almost everyone from the alleged offender to the state has their say. But somewhere in between, the child’s voice could get lost.

That’s where the CASA volunteer comes in. He or she becomes that child’s representative in court. The volunteer regularly meets with the child, sometimes driving three counties away to the nearest foster family or attending sporting events so the youth sees a friendly face in the crowd. CASA and CPS strive to keep the child in the same school district to limit the disruptions in his or her life.

In many situations, the attorneys and even judges change, but the one constant for the child is his or her CASA volunteer.

“The money events like the gala bring in go to help recruit and train volunteers,” Woerner said. “It’s tremendously important to us.”

Plus, it’s a great night on the town or, in this case, a night at Downton Abbey.

The gala is 6-10 p.m. at Lakeside Pavilion, 307 Buena Vista Drive. There will be cocktails and hors d’oeuvres followed by a full dinner catered by Becca Schafer Events.

“We’ll also have some incredible things lined up for our live and silent auctions,” Woerner said.

And you can top the night off by dancing the evening away to the music of the Bill Smallwood Orchestra.

If you’re not planning to dress up in “Downton Abbey” style, then cocktail or formal attire is appreciated.

Contact Kathryn Stephenson at kathryn@highlandlakescasa.com or (325) 388-3440 for tickets or more information.

“And, we can still use more sponsors, if people want to help out that way,” Woerner added.

daniel@thepicayune.com