Children who have been through tragedy and difficult situations are the focus of loving people who want to spread Christmas cheer.
Court Appointed Special Advocate director for Webster Parish Sandra Samuel knows that donations and gifts go a long way to give children in the state foster care system have a happy memory.
“The situations many of these children have been through is heart breaking,” she said. “For them to have a moment of normal, for them to have a happy memory of Christmas- something many of us take for granted- these children value it so much.”
Each year the wish list of CASA children is given to area individuals and organizations that wish to make a difference.
“There is an amazing network of shoppers, from individuals to church and civic organizations that bless these children,” Samuel said. “With out them it wouldn’t be possible.”
The Krewe des Ambassadeurs offers their den as a site for organizing gifts and assist with wrapping.
Area fundraisers assist CASA by making monetary donations for gift cards or larger items.
“These kids are just like any others, and they wish for electronics and gift cards, too.” Samuel said. “It is so heavy on my heart for them to be treated the way I would treat my children.”
Samuel recalled one 14-year–old girl’s wish was to have a TV for her room.
“That’s something that most kids have and when it’s appropriate for the child and situation, I want to be able to have their wishes granted,” she said.
Gifts are given to the families and foster parents in time for presents to be placed under the Christmas tree.
“We want their experience to be just like every other child’s,” Samuel explained. “These gifts are not from our office, or from donors. We want the kids to feel like they are from Santa or the families who are taking care of them or from whoever is best for the child.”
Protecting the privacy of children in the foster and CASA system means donors give funds and shop for items without knowing or meeting the children. It also means Samuel and individuals involved in the cases are responsible for delivery.
“It takes a few days to get all the gifts to their destination,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other opportunities to help support children in the foster system.”
There are currently 22 active CASA cases with 41 children in Webster Parish. Samuel currently has 11 volunteers advocating for children in court.
“I would love to have one volunteer per case. That would be ideal,” she said. “It seems we are always in need of more CASAs.”
To donate, shop, or volunteer for CASA’s children, contact Samuel at 371-0722.