story and photos by Debbie Miller, special to The City Wire
Home wasn’t a safe place for “Lindsey.”
Lindsey had been sexually assaulted by someone in what was supposed to be a place of safety and refuge. At first, her mother did not believe her. The shy, reserved teenager needed a friend.
Court Appointed Special Advocate Emily Espinosa became that trusted ally. As a volunteer, Espinosa built a relationship with Lindsey and helped guide the teen through the court process as the criminal case against the perpetrator progressed. Along the way, Lindsey was transformed. She became involved in school activities and grew more confident, and Lindsey and her mom were able to reconnect and build an even stronger bond.
“Eventually, Lindsey’s voice was heard,” Espinosa told a packed house Friday night (May 2) during the Construction Bash at Pratt Place Barn. The annual event benefited Court Appointed Special Advocates of Northwest Arkansas.
About 400 people were expected to attend the evening’s festivities, said Julie Lolley, director of development and marketing. The event, known as Playhouse Palooza, was projected to garner about $50,000, up from last year’s $40,000 in proceeds. Lolley said all the money goes for helping children.
Court Appointed Special Advocates are trained volunteers who act as impartial observers in conducting investigations, as information gatherers obtaining all the relevant facts about a child, as monitors ensuring that the court’s orders are carried out, and as reporters sharing written reports with the court. More information about becoming a volunteer is available on the organization’s website.
Espinosa had been active with the nonprofit Northwest Arkansas organization for about five years, but became a trained advocate about a year ago. She is one of scores of individuals who have made a commitment to be a voice for a child. Court Appointed Special Advocates of Northwest Arkansas was able to reach 450 children during fiscal year 2013 and hopes to reach 495 children in this fiscal year ending June 30. The organization serves Benton, Carroll, Madison and Washington counties.
Playhouse Palooza, in its 11th year, features children’s playhouses, which are constructed by local builders and auctioned off or sold as a part of a raffle to help support the nonprofit organization. This year’s builders and designers were:
• Crystal States Manufacturing Inc., whose “Lofty Lodge” creation included items like a Karaoke machine, television and DVD player for the whole family to enjoy;
• The Benton County Sheriff’s Office, whose house dubbed “The Pigpen” featured a front porch, a vintage-inspired kitchen and an interior of all natural wood;
• James and James, whose “Little Blue Bungalow” featured built-in bookshelves, a reading loft and a 5-foot slide;
• Clark Contractors and designer Hight Jackson Associates, whose “Cartoon House,” inspired by 1960s cartoons, was bright and colorful and included such features as side and front porches and loft space; and
• BRR Architecture’s dog house for “furry” family members.
Live and silent auctions were featured, and the evening’s guests dined on delectables from Kruton’s Catering.
Chris Mitchell, vice president of the board of directors, told the audience that support from the Construction Bash will help CASA of Northwest Arkansas ensure that every child has a trained advocate to help guide him or her through the court system process, that the volunteers entering the program continue to have access to needed training and support and that the nonprofit agency continues to retain and attract volunteers.
A sign at a display table near the entrance echoed some of Espinosa’s remarks about the important work of volunteers. The sign featured a child’s photo with the words: “Everyone else doubted me. My CASA volunteer never did. Help give a voice to a child in need.”