More than 600 people from across Texas tuned in to CASA for the 2018 Texas CASA Conference! From Oct. 18-20, the CASA network took over Denton and came together to strengthen our advocacy. This year’s sessions were deep dives that focused on four areas: well-being, trauma-informed care, connections and Collaborative Family Engagement, and cultural diversity and inclusion.
Day one kicked off with four sessions followed by a concert, Twilight Tunes, hosted by Discover Denton. Twilight Tunes featured local artist The Dunashay Experience, and attendees were treated to CASA Crunch ice cream made by Beth Marie’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream.
We started day two with a bang – literally! The University of North Texas Green Brigade Drumline opened up the Opening General Session with a surprise performance. The drumline marched through the aisles and pumped up the crowd before Texas CASA CEO Vicki Spriggs and keynote speaker Steve Pemberton took the stage.
In the annual State of the State Address, Spriggs spoke on the milestones and successes of Texas CASA and the CASA network in the past year and what’s to come in 2019.
Opening keynote speaker Steve Pemberton shared his triumphant life journey and how he overcame seemingly insurmountable odds to change his path. His story recounts how he was orphaned into foster care, then abandoned and betrayed by the very individuals entrusted with his care. Yet these challenges only fueled his desire to become a man of resilience, determination and vision. While Pemberton did not have a CASA volunteer during his time in foster care, he shared how the “so-called ordinary people” were the ones that made the greatest impact in his life.
“Why am I here? I’m not here because of the experts. I’m here because of the so-called ordinary people. Who don’t have big titles. They are advocates for 20 years and 30 years, and there’s a long trail of lives that they have touched… People a lot like Ruby.”- Steve Pemberton
From the “Pick Your Tune Station” to the DJ before every general session, music played a vital and fun role throughout the conference. Additionally, several new interactive experiences were introduced this year. The “Every Child Deserves…” wall asked attendees to share what they believe every child deserves… love, permanency, hugs, respect, birthday cake and more phrases filled the wall and reminded everyone of the importance of CASA. Also, because the sessions were deeper dives and tackled tough topics, a Wellness Lounge was available throughout the conference for attendees to take time for themselves, relax and reflect between and during sessions.
In addition to focusing the sessions on four main topic areas, speakers were also encouraged to incorporate CASA-specific examples by using case studies provided by Texas CASA. The case studies helped connect the content to real-life scenarios that volunteers and staff face.
Friday night attendees were invited to the CASA After Party for a night of dinner and dancing. Despite a false start with the music, the Texas CASA staff showed off their dance skills with a surprise dance to Technotronic’s Pump Up the Jam. The rest of the night was dedicated to dancing and celebrating the CASA network. Check out all of the photos from the two photo booths in the photo album below.
Closing out the conference on Saturday morning was Dr. Martha Ramos Duffer, who talked about how we can transform traumatic stress into post-traumatic growth. While many of us have heard of traumatic stress, few of us know of post-traumatic growth – practices that can contribute to transforming the challenges, demands and traumatic stress we experience into growth-promoting and life-enriching experiences.
“In order to do this work, we have to be WELL!” – Dr. Martha Ramos Duffer
Following Dr. Ramos Duffer, Texas CASA CEO Vicki Spriggs wrapped up the conference with “The CASA Way.” Some were introduced to The CASA Way for the first time, while others were reminded of Texas CASA’s philosophy: We have an uncompromising belief that we will achieve what others think is impossible, and each of us is an essential part of the solution. Spriggs reminded us all that we each have the power to transform the lives of children and create a brighter future for Texas.
Spriggs ended the conference by revealing the winning theme for the 2019 Texas CASA Conference: 30 Year Jubilee. Attendees got to vote on the look and feel throughout the event. As the winning look was announced, the doors were opened and attendees got one more surprise – the University of North Texas 2 O’clock Lab Band, beignets and café au lait for the road!
Overall, the conference was an exciting event, and we can’t wait to see everyone next year in Galveston on Oct. 24-26!
Thank you to our 2018 sponsors!
JANE QUENTAN PIPER
FRIENDS AND FAMILY OF MELISSA JONES
DALLAS WOMEN’S FOUNDATION
RANDOLPH-BROOKS FEDERAL CREDIT UNION
SUZANNE AND DON MALONEY