The Atlantic Area Court Appointed Special Advocates and the Kiwanis Club organized a 5-kilometer run Saturday to raise money for the organizations’ causes. More than 100 runners participated.
CASA is a nonprofit that advocates for the best interests of abused and neglected children involved in juvenile-court deprivation proceedings. Advocates get to know the children they work with, and they speak to everyone involved in a child’s life, including family members, teachers, doctors, lawyers and social workers.
The information they gather and their recommendations help the court make informed decisions on a child’s future.
“Our volunteers have put in a collective 1,400 hours in the past year advocating for abused and neglected children,” Executive Director Petula Gomillion said. “They do it all out of the goodness of their hearts.”
Money raised at Saturday’s 5K will be used to train volunteers and fund the groups end-of-year banquet, during which members are recognized for their service. Each year, one member is named the volunteer of the year.
“It is so important to recognize their hard work,” Gomillion said. “Overall, the run is all about building awareness for what CASA does and recognizing our volunteers.”
The run also benefited the Kiwanis Club of Liberty County, an organization that helps youth understand the importance of reading. Throughout the year, volunteers read once a month to students in classrooms at the Liberty County Pre-K Center and other elementary schools. In the past, they have organized the Kiwanis Art and Talent Show and raised funds to support the Special Olympics.
“We teach the importance of reading all throughout Liberty County,” Kiwanis Club Director Margaret Van Houten said. “We also hand out books to elementary school children to encourage reading.”
The Kiwanis Club in Liberty County began in 2000 after Target provided a grant to promote the “Read a Book, Give a Book” campaign, she said.
The group has handed out free books across Liberty County from schools in Riceboro to Fort Stewart and everywhere in between.
The Kiwanis Club and CASA split the 5K entry fees, which were $30 per person, or $20 for those who registered early. Kiwanis’ portion will be used to buy more books for elementary-school children.
“We thought a 5K run would be a great way to get the community together, set a good run goal and to just have fun,” Van Houten said. “Plus, running is a great stress-reliever and work out.”
Some members of Bradwell Institute’s cross-country and track-and-field teams participated. The first to cross the finish line was senior Jacoby Hardy. The first female to cross the finish line was McKaylin Darsey, a sophomore at Bradwell. Hardy finished in 19 minutes, 11 seconds, and Darsey finished in 21 minutes, 20 seconds.
“I love running,” Darsey said. “It makes me feel free, and it helps me relieve stress when school gets tense.”
She runs cross country and track and field at Bradwell. She said she ran twice a day in the summer. Now that school is in session, she runs once a day.
“Our coach has us practice hard, but he always tells us to pay attention to our grades,” Darsey said. “He says that school comes first, and run come second.”
Darsey said she signed up for the 5K because she believes that supporting community events is important.
“My mom instilled in me that supporting the community is very important, and our family believes in what the Kiwanis and CASA organizations do for our community,” she said.