SEWARD, NE — A non-profit working to help kids in the court system is making a push for new volunteers in April. Southeast Nebraska CASA Executive Director Marci Fehlhafer says it’s a big month for the organization to try to recruit new people and raise funds.

"We would love to see CASA in every county, but we're not there yet," Fehlhafer said. "But in the counties we do serve, it is important to bring awareness for what our volunteers do and also recruit new ones."

CASA — Court Appointed Special Advocates — trains and supports volunteers who  ensure a child’s interests are heard during cases involving abuse or neglect. Jefferson and Thayer County volunteer coordinator Sheena Halverstadt says volunteers are a constant for the children in cases with several moving parts.

"A lot of times the volunteers are the ones that are with the children the longest so they get to know the children on a more personal level and can bring that to the table when we're talking about services for the kiddos," Halverstadt said.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. With the spotlight on the issue, CASA is getting into the public eye to bring in more help.

"In our four counties [Jefferson, Thayer, Saline, Seward] we still have 20 kids in need of a volunteer," Fehlhafer said. "So we are using the month of April as a way to really highlight our program, recruit new volunteers and meet with people."

In another effort to bring awareness, Southeast Nebraska CASA is challenging people to run 55 miles through the month of April. The 55 represents one mile for every child in Jefferson, Thayer, Saline and Seward counties currently in foster care.

Once signed up, CASA puts volunteers through training to make sure they have the tools needed.

"They come from all backgrounds," Halverstadt said. "They don't have to come from a child welfare background. They learn how to read through case information, they learn how to interview parties involved in the case and once they get involved to a case they do their own independent investigation of a case."

All with the goal of helping kids in cases of neglect or abuse.

"We're really trying to do that recruitment effort so as soon as possible we have a CASA for every kid," Fehlhafer said.

Those interested in learning more can attend the following events from Southeast Nebraska CASA. 

Friday, April 21, 7-10 a.m. - Free Coffee on CASA in Fairbury at Belle Rose Boutique and Coffee House - Get a free black coffee and talk with CASA staff

Saturday, April 22, 1:30 p.m. - Free showing of The Disruptors at the Majestic Theatre in Hebron - Documentary exploring myths surrounding ADHD through interviews of families and individuals with ADHD.

Saturday, April 29, 2 p.m. - Free showing of The Disruptors at the Bonham Theatre in Fairbury 

Every Friday in April - Wear Blue Day to spread awareness for Child Abuse Prevention Month

Ongoing Throughout April - Run Out Child Abuse - Run/Walk 55 miles in April for the 55 kids in foster care in Southeast Nebraska CASA's service area.