People of varying ages and fitness levels will be pedaling together in Montclair on Sunday, March 2, to raise funds to ensure foster children are effectively represented in family court.
The nonprofit organization CASA for Children of Essex County, Inc., is holding its sixth annual Spin for a Child indoor cycling fund-raiser, at 3Sixty Cycling and Fitness Studio. With the help of corporate and private sponsors, the event has raised more than $325,000 over the past five years to help fund CASA’s activities.
The local organization, founded in 1986 by the National Council of Jewish Women’s Essex County Section and the Junior League of Montclair-Newark, is the oldest and largest court-appointed advocacy program for foster children in New Jersey, and one of the 15 largest CASA programs in the nation.
Its trained and supervised volunteers serve as researchers and advocates, addressing the needs of foster children and those charged with their care. They report to judges overseeing their cases, providing direction and guidance on what will be in the children’s best interests as they move through the foster care system, hopefully to safe and stable permanent homes.
Andrea Silvershein of Warren and her daughter Jennifer are taking part in the spin event for the first time, as part of a larger team. Jennifer, a social work student at Columbia University, interned with CASA last summer. Andrea, now a life coach, said she encountered CASA when she was working as director of community services for NCJW Essex County. “It became one of my favorite agencies,” she said. “It is amazingly professional and well run, and the more I knew about it, the more I wanted to do what I could to help.”
As of Monday, their team had raised $480 in pledges, and were hoping for more.
Lori E. Chapin, board president of CASA for Children of Essex County, is a former CASA advocate herself, and previously represented the state in child welfare cases as a deputy attorney general. “I have seen firsthand the impact that a CASA volunteer can make on a case,” she said. “That extra phone call to a school, relative, or potential caregiver, that extra voice speaking up for a child, the extra set of eyes and ears, can literally change the outcome for that one child, forever.”
Mark Cohen, the owner of the studio which has hosted the event from the start, said, “This is the real deal. The dollars raised go directly to ensuring that these kids have a court-appointed special advocate, a voice, a guiding hand through the system. Imagine for a moment the possibility of changing the life of a child.”