A steady sprinkle of early fall rain didn't stop at least 253 runners from sprinting Saturday to help abused and neglected children by participating in the sixth annual Amanda Fussell Woodman Colorful 5K.
The fundraiser is the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Texarkana's way to remind the community of the need to protect children and encourage adult volunteers to be child advocates and take part in the program, said Stephanie Fussell, mother of the late Amanda Fussell Woodman, for whom the fundraiser is named.
"We just can't say enough to thank our runners for coming out this year and participating—even in the rain," Fussell said.
Fussell added that this year's participant number surpassed last year's and may be the largest turnout since the event started in 2013. Last year's fundraiser took in about $38,000.
"We are so blessed to have this many citizens come out and be a part of this, because there are a lot of larger cities that don't have a CASA program," she said. "We are real lucky."
Arkansas State District 1 Rep. Carol Dalby, of Texarkana, Ark., who attended Saturday's race, said the whole point of CASA is to make sure that any child who is removed from their home because of abuse or neglect and placed in foster car will always have an adult to advocate for them and be their voice.
"All CASA adult volunteers really need to have is just a passion for children and a great concern and care for children," Dalby said. "The CASA program here in Texarkana actually started at least 20 years ago. Judge Jack Carter and the Texarkana Junior League took the lead in setting up the program."
Dalby said children from infants to teens younger than 18 could eventually be returned to their original family homes, provided their parents are deemed responsible enough to take them back in and care for them.
Tiffany McFarland, A CASA volunteer coordinator for the last 13 years, said she supports these adult volunteers by helping with their child visitations and helping them prepare paperwork.
CASA Volunteer Child Advocate Ben Frank, a retired attorney and current cattleman, said he's been involved with the program for about the last 10 or 12 years.
"I like helping kids come out of the system and become not only survivors but actually go on to be successful in life," he said. "One of the kids I helped with went on to graduate high school with honors."