ELIZABETH, NJ — 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 longtime board member Sally Hogan of Fanwood as an honoree during its Foster the Dream Gala on Saturday, Nov. 14.

Hogan, who completed her Board tenure this summer after 15 years and was an inaugural member responsible for helping bring CASA to fruition in 2005, will receive a new gala honor in her name: The Sally Hogan Dream-Catcher Award for Exemplary Commitment.

Prior to becoming a board member, Hogan trained as a CASA volunteer and advocated for a sibling set until their case closed. During that time she earned a child advocacy certification from Montclair State University. Hogan’s professional background is in therapeutic recreation, and she worked 17 years at Fanwood-Scotch Plains YMCA and the Rahway YMCA.

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This year’s gala – 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.

Two others will be feted: the Honorable Jo-Anne B. Spatola Dream-Maker Award will go to Westfield United Fund, a grassroots organization also fueled by volunteers, and focused for more than 80 years on helping vulnerable neighbors as well as small-but-mighty nonprofits like CASA of Union County fulfill its mission in those same trenches. Thanks to Westfield United Fund, 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.

Clark’s Teresa LaStella will receive the Dream-Keeper Award for Outstanding Volunteerism, given her tenacious commitment to the same foster youth for nearly 10 years. From attending her elementary school graduation to now working to ensure the youth – who is at risk of aging out without the permanency of family – is prepared for life on her own without the safety nets many take for granted. The youth has endured more than 15 placements and at least three caseworkers and through it all LaStella has remained the one constant in her corner.

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

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