GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — An event later this month aims to support children as it highlights Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month.

“We need the community to know that we have over 10,000 children in the foster care system,” CASA President and CEO Patty Sabin said.

CASA, or Court Appointed Special Advocates, is a child advocacy group that partners trained volunteers with abused or neglected children.

Bobbi Jo Blanton of Kent County said she knew she had to be a part of CASA when she learned about it. Training to become a volunteer lasted six to eight weeks. Blanton said it was intense, emotional and trying.

“Some of the stories you hear, you just don’t even realize that’s really happening in our community,” she said.

Volunteers are sworn in by a judge following their training. Blanton completed hers in February 2020. COVID-19 put a delay on volunteering immediately but in October 2020, she took on her first case with two girls. Blanton isn’t able to share specific details to the case but said one of her girls was accepted into college will start in the fall. The announcement moved Blanton to tears.

“The fact that we were able to move the scale on this case from that side to the next in less than 18 months is just amazing,” Blanton said. “I’m so proud of where they’ve come.”

Blanton said she and her husband became aware of the CASA program through an event they were invited to in Allegan County.

For the first time since the pandemic, the nonprofit is hosting a fundraiser featuring speakers and highlighting advocacy.

A fundraiser called Stronger with Blue is set to be held at Thousand Oaks Golf Club north of Grand Rapids from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. April 16. Those who attend are being asked to wear blue to honor Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month.

At the WOOD TV8 Live Desk Tuesday afternoon, CASA President and CEO Patty Sabin talked about the event and how important volunteers like Blanton are to making the operation work.

“Without them, we could not serve our children and families,” Sabin said. “It is not for the faint of heart.”

More information about volunteering for CASA, including registration for the April 26 event, can be found on the organization’s website.