Jacqui Lake of Newtown Square to be honored for planting seeds of organization’s largest annual fundraiser at a Christmas party in 1999
Two local residents to be recognized as Advocates of the Year
CASA Youth Advocates, Inc. announced that tickets are available for its 20th annual gala, to be held on Friday, December 6 at the Drexelbrook Catering and Special Event Center in Drexel Hill, PA. At the event, CASA will honor two Advocates of the Year, Patty Szipszky and Tracey Walsh, along with Jacqui Lake, who 20 years ago first planted the seeds of CASA’s annual gala.
In 1999, CASA was housed in a basement office that flooded frequently. The organization’s 21 volunteers advocated for 83 Delaware County children on 42 cases, supported by a budget of $101,000. There was no major fundraising event supporting the organization’s work at the time.
That same year, Jacqui Lake suggested that her family and friends make a donation to CASA in lieu of exchanging gifts at their Christmas party at the Springfield Country Club. In response, the group donated several thousand dollars and collected duffle bags for the children CASA served.
Over 20 years, the Christmas party and its support for CASA evolved into CASA’s gala, the organization’s largest annual fundraiser. Today the gala alone raises more than the organization’s entire 1999 budget, thanks to generous community supporters—including a table full of Jacqui’s friends and family. CASA itself has grown alongside the gala, expanding to serve 231 children in two counties—nearly triple the number of children CASA served 20 years ago.
2019 Gala Honorees
Patty Szipszky of Newtown Square currently volunteers with two teens, both of whom have resided in numerous homes and facilities over the course of their young lives. Patty’s immense kindness, patience and understanding have not only made her an effective advocate for her cases, but a powerful bridge-builder between youth-serving organizations. Her additional service raising public awareness around CASA’s work and childhood abuse and neglect have further strengthened our region’s safety net.
Tracey Walsh of West Chester has advocated for four young people since joining CASA in 2017 shortly after her retirement. Tracey’s proactive approach to her CASA cases has helped close gaps in the safety net and has added stability to her CASA children’s lives. With the help of the tenacity and passion that Tracey brings to her advocacy, a potential adoptive home has been identified for her youth, who is in need of a forever home after spending years in residential care. Her emphasis on the teen’s strengths despite his behavioral challenges has had a positive impact in his life.
Jacqui Lake of Newtown Square grew up in a supportive household feeling safe and loved. As she entered adulthood, she wanted to give back and was struck by CASA’s mission as she learned about the struggles of abused and neglected children. Twenty years ago, Jacqui mobilized her family and friends to use their annual Christmas party as a channel for supporting CASA—an effort that ultimately gave birth to the organization’s largest annual fundraiser. In 2002, Jacqui joined the board and served for several years. Her involvement in CASA continues to this day as she advocates for a 14-year-old boy.
“Advocates and supporters like Patty, Tracey and Jacqui are the reason why I believe in the importance of our organization’s mission,” said CASA Executive Director Leigh Anne McKelvey. “This year’s gala will especially recognize the impact of the passion and dedication our advocates and supporters have shown us throughout these many years.”
2019 has been a notable year for the organization. CASA launched the Voices for Children coalition with support from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency and The Foundation for Delaware County. Voices for Children is a multidisciplinary alliance of organizations and concerned individuals from across sectors— government, philanthropy, nonprofit, and corporate—working together to improve the lives of vulnerable and victimized children in Delaware County. Voices for Children seeks to strengthen partnerships between child-serving organizations, raise public awareness, contribute to the public dialogue on matters of child welfare, identify gaps in services to abused and neglected children, and advocate for systemic and policy improvements to build a comprehensive safety net of services. CASA’s next Voices for Children coalition meeting will be held in March 2020.
WHEN: Friday, December 6, 6:00pm – 10:00pm
WHERE: Drexelbrook Catering and Special Event Center, 4700 Drexelbrook Drive, Drexel Hill, PA 19026