Guest Editorial: Trying to make a difference every day

By on April 26, 2012

by Kevin O’Boyle
CASA Kane County volunteer

When I retired in February of 2010, I thought about one of my favorite videos that my company would show to new management featuring Lou Holtz. 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 Kane County, where all of us are helping to make a difference in the lives of children.

The first child assigned to me in my role as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) 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 was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, Posttraumatic 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 Kane County 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 specific disorders. I decided that 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 group home. When I planned my first visit, I did not 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.

Over the past two years, I have 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. The group home staff said that since Kyle had improved so much in all areas, they were recommending that he 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 their future. That is what CASA’s do—we give children hope for their future. As one of our CASA volunteers said, “It is about helping a child replace a life of hurt with one of hope.”

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Last year, CASA Kane County served 512 children who had been either abused or neglected. The organization’s goal is to always have a CASA volunteer for every abused and neglected child. CASA Kane County attends many civic events, and its volunteers speak at several local churches. Many people approach our volunteers afterwards and say that they appreciate the great work that we do, but they don’t think they could do it. If you ask any CASA volunteer, they will tell you they also had concerns in the beginning, but now that they have made the decision to serve as a CASA volunteer, it has been one of the best decisions they have ever made. It is truly a life changing experience.

If you or anyone you know would like to help make a difference in the life of a child, please contact CASA Kane County at (630) 232-4484. You can also get more information about CASA Kane County by visiting their web page at www.casakanecounty.org.