GENEVA – More than 140 people participated Thursday in Kane County’s 10th Annual Hands Around the Courthouse event to bring attention to child abuse and neglect.
The crowd, which included court-appointed special advocates, or CASAs, members of the Exchange Club of the Tri Cities and attorneys, filled the lobby and part of the second floor of the Kane County Courthouse, 100 S. Third St., Geneva. They held hands for 10 seconds to remember the 104 children in Illinois who died in 2013 as a result of child abuse and neglect.
Among those participating was St. Charles resident Tom Mandik, who came to the event with his wife, Denise, who has been a CASA since 2011. Mandik has attended the event twice before and said it’s an appropriate way to bring awareness to the issue of child abuse.
The Mandiks also appreciated that the event included a swearing-in ceremony for 21 new CASAs that will help children have a voice in court proceedings. The ceremony is usually held in the courthouse as a standalone event in the evening, said Debra McQuaid, director of advocate education for CASA Kane County.
The organization decided to include the ceremony as part of Thursday’s event to show people that CASAs are part of the solution to end child abuse, McQuaid said.
The new CASAs were warned that they will never feel so frustrated or so helpless for the children as they will at times when their cases move through the court system. The success stories and reuniting children with their families will make the hard times worth it, said Judith Brawka, chief judge of the 16th Judicial Circuit.
“This is the closest you may actually come to saving a life,” she told the volunteers.
Brawka was one of three speakers Thursday, along with CASA Kane County Executive Director Gloria Bunce and Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon. McMahon spoke about the recent effort Bunce came up with to remind the public about reporting abuse.
It all comes back to the slogan of “if you see something, say something,” McMahon said.