Elizabeth, NJ (October 15, 2020) — Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Union County, the nonprofit that serves as extra eyes and ears for judges in family court cases involving abused, neglected and abandoned children removed from home and placed in foster care, has tapped Teresa LaStella of Clark to receive its Dream-Keeper Award for Outstanding Volunteerism. She will receive the honor during CASA’s Foster the Dream Gala on Saturday, Nov. 14.

LaStella, a longtime CASA volunteer, was selected to receive this year’s Dream-Keeper Award for her tenacious commitment to one foster youth for nearly 10 years. That youth is now a teen and at risk of aging out without permanency. LaStella has been present for countless events from elementary school graduation to team and IEP meetings, and her focus now is working to ensure her youth continues to remain stable in her placement and will be prepared for a life on her own, without the safety nets so many others take for granted. Since LaStella was assigned to the case, her CASA youth has endured more than 15 placements and at least three caseworkers. Each new placement means a new school, new teachers and new expectations. Through it all, LaStella has remained – and continues to remain –  the youth’s one constant.

This year’s event – the single-largest fundraiser responsible for the lion’s share of the organization’s funding – has gone virtual due to Covid-19. Traditionally an affair with cocktail attire, dinner, dancing, and live and silent auctions, this year’s gala will be special in its own right, and all are invited to attend from the comfort of their own couch. Plans include surprise celebrity appearances, auction items, award presentations, a former Union County foster youth sharing her story, and more.

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Two others will be honored: this year’s Honorable Jo-Anne B. Spatola Dream-Maker Award will go to Westfield United Fund, a grassroots organization fueled, like CASA, by volunteers. For more than 80 years its focus has been helping vulnerable neighbors as well as small-but-mighty nonprofits working in the trenches. Thanks to Westfield United Fund and other longtime supporters, CASA of Union County’s growth continues, with expanded trainings and implementation of a model that vastly increased the number of youth served without impacting staff size.

Fanwood’s Sally Hogan, who completed her board tenure this summer after 15 years and was an inaugural member responsible for helping bring CASA of Union County to fruition in 2005, will receive an honor new to the gala and named for her: The Sally Hogan Dream-Catcher Award for Exemplary Commitment.

For details on how to attend and to participate virtually, log on to www.fosterthedream.org.