It’s October, and kids are brainstorming about costumes for Halloween. There are the inevitable requests to be Batman, Wonder Woman, or Superman himself. Superheroes are popular for a reason: They provide an ideal for the world in which we all live. But some kids urgently need more than an ideal to look up to; they need a flesh and blood advocate.
On September 21, the CASA programs of Travis and Williamson counties hosted their annual Superhero Run. Their slogan? “Every child needs a hero, but abused children need superheroes!” CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates and this national organization has 933 chapters across the country, 75 of which are in Texas (including the Travis and Williamson County programs, founded in 1985 and 2009). The advocates that make up these chapters are volunteers who are trained to speak up for the best interests of those placed in child protective services.
CASA’s mission is to support and promote court-appointed volunteer advocacy so that abused or neglected children can be safe, establish permanence, and have the opportunity to thrive. For both the Travis and Williamson County chapters, the vision is for every child to have a safe home. Laura Wolf, executive director of CASA of Travis County, explained, “The superheroes and the costumes are so important because they really tie into our mission. We talk about how Superman was adopted, Batman was raised by his butler, and Spiderman was raised by his aunt and uncle. Few superheroes grew up in a traditional family setting, so we want to help all kids growing up in the child protective services system to have the chance to be superheroes.”
This year, the race took place at Mueller Lake Park and included a Kids’ 1K and a 5K run, superhero activities before the races, and an awards ceremony for race and costume contest winners. “We have really enjoyed being a part of this run for the past two years,” said Alisa De Luna, executive director of CASA of Williamson County. “As a runner myself, I appreciate that the CASA Superhero Run brings together such an important cause with a fun theme and a great set of race courses for kids and adults. It’s a day for everyone in our community to come together and have fun while supporting the most vulnerable children in our community, who really need superheroes.”
The CASA Superhero Run benefits these abused or neglected children, and as of print time, $28,160 had been raised out of the $50,000 that was targeted. However, this race accomplishes more than fundraising goals: By encouraging participants to dress up, it brings to life these superhuman comic book characters that are such a fun comfort to CASA’s clientele. Picture the Hulk, a family of Incredibles, and Captain America running side by side with a canine Spiderman at their heels. Carolyn Nicewarner, a CASA volunteer, said, “ I love the CASA Superhero Run. It’s a great way for the public to get to know what we as volunteers do to help kids. The superhero theme and costumes help make the tough subject of child abuse accessible to our whole community so everyone can get involved.”
The race is over for this year, but the chance to be a superhero is not. CASA of Travis County supports more than 550 volunteers and 1,500 children a year, and the Williamson County program is growing rapidly to meet the needs of its expanding community. Take this Halloween as an impetus to start training for next year’s run or as the catalyst behind volunteering or making a donation. You can see more pictures of participants in their costumes on the Superhero Run Event Page (casasuperherorun.com) as well as learn more about CASA and the Travis (casatravis.org) and Williamson (casawctx.com/default.aspx) County Chapter websites. After all, a superhero’s work is never done.