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Candelight vigil for abused children April 7

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

CASA volunteers needed by May

Their names sound like a list of names of all children... April and Benny, Yolanda and Zoe. That is because they represent all children. Even more tragic, some of their names may be forever unknown, like "Baby Doe" and "The Child of God," two unknown children who died shocking deaths in Buena Vista County over the past several years.

The Child of God, the body found abandoned at the Storm Lake Recycling Center, had a memorial bench built in its honor at Storm Lake Cemetery. Baby Doe remains in an unmarked grave at Buena Vista Memorial Park after being found dead in abandoned trailer house.

Storm Lake and Buena Vista County residents are being called together to hold the fifth annual candlelight vigil in memory of victims of child abuse 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 7 at the west side of the Buena Vista County Courthouse.

Gregg Hamann, Buena Vista University senior social work major and intern in the Court Appointed Special Advocate office in the Buena Vista County Courthouse, is coordinating the vigil along with Kathy Fritz, CASA coordinator for Buena Vista, Cherokee, and Ida counties. The vigil is being held in conjunction with Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month in April. In the event of rain, the event will be held in the atrium on the southwest side of the Buena Vista County Courthouse.

Fritz said the vigil is being held to help remind the public of the children from the past year that have died from child abuse and who continue to live under physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. "We've had some pretty severe cases of child abuse in the community recently," Fritz said.

The Court Appointed Special Advocate program trains CASA volunteers who in Iowa act as the child's guardian ad litum, or representing the child in court. The CASA volunteer works in concert with the child's attorney, if one is appointed, in cases of child abuse.

"We see about every kind of abuse that there is," Fritz said. "Last year there were two cases of very, very severe abuse, about as severe as I've seen since I've been doing this."

As CASA coordinator, Fritz oversees the training of the 40 volunteers currently working on 29 cases with four cases pending placement. Among the speakers at the April 7 vigil will be Lindsay Landgraf, a Storm Lake St. Mary's student, who will present an oral interpretive piece from the perspective of an abused child.

There will also be cardboard cutouts placed on the lawn to represent the children in Iowa that have died of child abuse over the past year.

Fritz said CASA volunteers are also needed. Training will start in May. Those interested in becoming a CASA volunteer may call Fritz at 749-5184.

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