Spring 2020 Newsletter

March 16, 2020


Dear Friends,

During these uncertain times, we are grateful for your support that makes it possible to continue giving a voice to the most vulnerable children in our community.

Champaign County CASA remains committed to ensuring no child falls through the cracks. Although we are taking necessary precautions and working with our volunteers to ensure their health and safety, we know that now, more than ever, we must remain focused on the well-being of our kids.

Thank you from all of us for supporting CASA kids, including helping us expand our April Child Abuse Prevention Month this year, and for all you do to support families in our community. We have included our Spring Newsletter below and hope you and your family stay safe and healthy.


Rush Record
Executive Director, Champaign County CASA


Illinois Thetas Lead by Example

CASA is always grateful for the leadership and support from our Kappa Alpha Theta partners. This year, Thetas challenged themselves and pushed their Theta Grilled Cheese to raise a whopping $15,000 for CASA kids!

In addition to selling grilled cheeses on February 28, every Theta member personally invited their friends and family to support their fundraising page. Busey Bank and Baxter Credit Union also sponsored the event.

Special thanks and congratulations to Theta leaders Emily Kinney and Jackie Tyma for all their efforts in making the event possible. We have also been proud to work with Lexi Gianacakos and Ellie Hatton, who have been incredible marketing interns for our program.

Thank you, Thetas, for giving all of our kids a chance at a safe, healthy, and permanent home!


Connie Brillhart and How Being a Teacher Led her to CASA Volunteering

Connie Brillhart has been working with children since 1986 as a teacher, counselor, and coordinator for at-risk children at both Urbana and Centennial High School. Having seen the trauma many children encounter, Connie always knew she wanted to be a CASA. In 2016, she decided she had enough time to volunteer and signed up for our training class. As her case nears completion, we asked Connie a few questions about her experience.

How has your background helped you? I saw firsthand over the years how kids are moved so frequently from home to home and how they struggle. I’ve always worked with the “underdogs,” and I did have experience doing home visits. Having that background meant I had a comfort level going in about how to be respectful in people’s homes and be sensitive to all the issues that could be happening in the family.

What has it been like to be a CASA? Even though I love working with teenagers, I wanted as a CASA to work with younger kids. I met my CASA child over three years ago, and the system has been slow. I’ve been the one constant person on the case as caseworkers have come and gone. But I've also gotten to see how much she has grown and thrived.

What does it take to be a good CASA? You need to investigate the situation and see what is really happening not only where the child is placed, but also check out the home where they came from. Being polite and respectful is important, but you also have to ask bold questions and follow up when you don’t think something is quite right.

What has the time commitment been like? It’s very manageable, even while working full-time. You get to choose when you visit your child, and a lot of follow-up can happen over text and email. CASA staff will help you with writing the reports and making sure all the information gets to the judge.

What would you say to people who don’t want to join because it’s “too sad”? Yes, it is sad. I have seen kids who come to school every day just to get their two meals and have a safe place to sleep. But I’ve also been in the field long enough to watch these kids become adults, and how they can lead productive lives even with the challenges facing them. It’s worth it to invest in them, and we have to give these kids a voice.



Brandon & Ellie

CASA at Work: Ellie & Brandon

When coping with drugs leads to a substance abuse disorder, children are the first to suffer. That’s exactly what had happened to Brandon and Ellie*, two siblings both under the age of six. Their mom and dad love them, but substance abuse had led to domestic violence, and their home was no longer safe.

CASA was able to assign David, a new Advocate, on the case. David met with Brandon and Ellie and realized they both had dealt with a lot of trauma in their short childhoods. David and their caseworker worked hand-in-hand to get Brandon and Ellie counseling, and even worked extra with Brandon, who was struggling the most with understanding and forgiving his parents.

David loved visiting with Brandon and Ellie and helped them remember what it’s like to have a fun, carefree childhood. From playing soccer to taking over books for them to read together, David helped make Brandon and Ellie comfortable in their foster home.

Meanwhile, David made sure their parents were getting the help they needed. While their mom was having a lot of success with substance abuse treatment, their dad was not. David ensured Brandon and Ellie continued seeing their mom, and when she was ready to reunite with her children, David made sure Brandon and Ellie were ready, too. He was the first to visit when they returned home with mom, and was thrilled to watch them thrive together as a family of three.

Although Brandon and Ellie's dad still needs support, CASA is grateful when an Advocate can help our kids reunite with a parent who accepted the help they needed. David was instrumental every step of the way in ensuring Brandon and Ellie now have a chance at a happy and loving childhood.

*Because this is a real story from Champaign County, names and information have been changed to protect confidentiality. Thank you for making Brandon & Ellie's story possible.



Do you want to help CASA and support Child Abuse Prevention Month? Sponsoring the Pinwheel Project is a great way to get involved. CASA’s Pinwheel Project reaches tens of thousands of community members over the month of April and is the most visible element of Child Abuse Prevention Month. All funding will support CASA’s efforts to give every foster child a voice in Champaign County and prevent future child abuse.

We’re excited to offer Gold ($600) and Silver ($300) sponsors your own blue and silver pinwheel “garden” along with a yard sign (with your logo) to showcase your support of ending child abuse and neglect. 

To sign up, please email Emily Cross Vayr at ecross@casa4kids.org. You can also sponsor a pinwheel for $10 at casa4kids.org/pinwheels.


Thank you for your support!



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