Sep 30, 2015

Friday event to benefit child advocates, feature wide range of food and drink

Sampling buffalo wellington, Asian lettuce wraps and other dishes from around Park County is one way you can support local children's advocates on Friday evening.

The third annual "Taste of Park County" is a benefit for CASA — Court Appointed Special Advocates for children — a nonprofit organization that serves Park, Big Horn, Washakie and Hot Springs counties.

Vendors will offer samples of their wares at Friday's Taste of Park County event, much as they did at the 2013 event, shown above. Cody News Co. file photo by Ilene Olson
Some 19 restaurants and vendors from Cody, Powell and Meeteetse will provide samples of foods and beverages at the 5:30-7:30 p.m. event in the Cody Auditorium.

“It truly is a Park County event,” said Ellen Klym, executive director for CASA of the Fifth Judicial District, which serves children in the Big Horn Basin.

“The restaurants are going above and beyond with all of their samples,” Klym said. “There is meat, soups, cheeses, bread, pizza, candy, beverages and desserts.”

While Taste of Park County showcases restaurants and other vendors for current and potential customers, it also shows that the business owners support CASA’s mission, she said.

Court Appointed Special Advocates of the Fifth Judicial District are volunteers appointed by district court judges in Cody and Worland to advocate for children who are victims of child abuse or neglect, said Klym.

In 2014, 24 volunteer advocates in the Big Horn Basin served 61 abused and neglected children and 48 families. The average time those children spent in foster care was reduced by approximately eight months.

Volunteers around the Big Horn Basin served 61 abused and neglected children last year, donating 6,800 hours, appearing in court 240 times and traveling 21,552 miles.

In total, the volunteers last year donated 6,800 hours, made 240 court appearances and traveled a total 21,552 miles, according to information provided by Klym.

CASA of the Fifth Judicial District began advocating for children in 2011. That year, volunteers advocated for 12 children. In 2012, that number increased to 21, then to 43 in 2013.

All of the money raised during Taste of Park County goes toward training volunteers, who must go through 30 hours of training and pass a background check. None of the money goes to administrative costs. (Klym's salary is paid through a VOCA grant from the Victims of Crimes division of the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office.)

Taste of Park County also aims to raise awareness of the need for volunteer advocates.

Nine new volunteers were trained last year, but more volunteers are needed, Klym said.

Klym said Judge Steven Cranfill, of the Fifth Judicial District Court in Cody, used to wait until an advocate was available before assigning a child to them.

“Now, he assigns a child, and we have to find a volunteer,” she said.

Klym said her goal is to never have a child on a waiting list for someone who will advocate for him or her.

“We have to built a sustainable program,” Klym said. “We’ve got to get enough volunteers that we never have to worry that a child is on a waiting list. I don’t ever want that to happen. ... Having somebody to wait for someone to speak for them in that court room.”

2013's Taste of Park County event drew a healthy crowd. Cody News Co. file photo by Ilene Olson
A new round of volunteer training begins Saturday, Oct. 8, at the CASA office in Cody. For more information, contact Klym at 307-587-4361.

As for those who attend Taste of Park County, Klym said they will not leave hungry.

“I don’t know if they’ll even get around to all of them,” she said. “I think they might fill up when they’re halfway through.”

Some of the sample items include chicken and mushroom Alfredo, buffalo wellington, crab and cream chili chowder, bacon-wrapped stuffed jalapenos, stuffed cornbread sliders, a chocolate fountain, Asian lettuce wraps and many more.

Items in a silent auction will include a four-day time share in Panama Beach, Florida, artwork, photos, jewelry and many more quality items, Klym said.

Tickets cost $20 each or $35 per couple and are available in advance in Cody at The Thistle, 1243 Rumsey Ave., and at Legends Bookstore, 1350 Sheridan Ave. Remaining tickets will be available at the door.

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