Elizabeth, NJ — Last fall, Bobbi and Craig Anderson were among several hundred guests at the Foster the Dream Gala fundraiser for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Union County, a volunteer-powered organization that protects best interests of Union County’s abused, neglected, or abandoned children removed from home and placed in foster care. By evening’s end, the Cranford couple says they felt “incredibly moved” by the plight of these child-victims in their own community, and were determined to help do something about it.

Less than a year later, the Andersons are doing just that, as benefit chairs for this year’s gala, Friday, Nov. 2, 2018 at the newly renovated Gran Centurions in Clark. Guests will enjoy dinner, dancing, drinks, silent and live auctions, wine pull, mystery-prize bags, and presentation of both the Dream-Keeper Award for Outstanding Volunteerism and Honorable Jo-Anne B. Spatola Dream-Maker Award.

Bobbi, a real estate agent with Keller Williams in Westfield, and Craig, a senior relationship manager with Brazilian bank Itaú Unibanco in Manhattan, have three children — two daughters and a son, ranging from high school sophomore to college sophomore. Their Cranford roots run deep; Craig was raised there and the train station is dedicated to his father, Richard, who served as director of NJ Transit’s Commuter Division.

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Bobbi said, “With everything happening in the world, and the situation with immigrant children, it’s especially rewarding to be able to give hands-on help to kids right here at your feet. It’s a problem many don’t realize is there.” She added, “Craig and I have good friends who have fostered and adopted, and we’ve admired that; CASA is a way to give something to the kids out there, whether time or money. Just stepping up to help.”

Marla Higginbotham, CASA’s executive director, said, “I am elated the Andersons are so fully on board, not only in their role as benefit chairs, but in their understanding of our work and mission, and the need for those able to step up to do so. They’re a wonderful example of working within their own community to make a difference. The gala is always a great time, and as the nonprofit’s premier fundraising event, its success is crucial to ensuring we continue not only to serve the fragile youth we do, but grow and train more members of the community to serve more children.”

Since 2005, CASA of Union County has recruited, trained, supervised and supported volunteers to advocate for abused, neglected and abandoned children placed in foster homes or residential facilities. There are nearly 600 Union County youth in care, and half are still in need of CASA volunteer to be their constant and protect their best interests. For gala tickets or sponsorship opportunities, reach Phyllis Dunlop at 908-293-8141. To learn more about becoming a CASA volunteer, reach Courtney Green at 908-293-8136.