“CASA DC works diligently to provide advocacy and mentorship to court-involved youth, primarily with foster children and juvenile justice. For McLaurin, this is a cause close to his heart, as he was always taught the importance of being a good person and values the part of him that's a kid at heart.” -Washington Commanders
Imagine a Thanksgiving celebration; whether the year is 1621 or 2023, we can picture a long table with abundant food for friends and family to enjoy.*
At CASA for the Children of DC, we turn our attention to the chairs at this table, ensuring that court-involved youth in the District of Columbia have a seat. Our recent Thanksgiving celebration featured two literal chairs - both big and small - with pivotal symbolism. The event took place Monday, November 13, from 4:00 to 7:00pm at Barry Farm Recreation Center located in Anacostia. The neighborhood is known for many things, including its nineteen-and-a-half-foot tall statue of a chair. The artwork represents “long-standing allegiance to the neighborhood and steadfast commitment to unity, prosperity, and goodwill to all Washingtonians and friends of Anacostia.” CASA DC staff members passed this chair on their way to the venue and were reminded of the organization’s mission to support CASA youth and their families. The second chair was a beautifully juxtaposing sight; Washington Commanders wide receiver, Terry McLaurin, chose to sit in a petite chair built for a six-year-old, leveling himself with children who admire him. In this seat, he joined the CASA youth for Thanksgiving-themed arts and crafts. They created turkeys out of construction paper with unique features (the staff’s favorite artistic choice: 1-7 googly eyes per bird). Each feather of this turkey became a canvas for the kids to express something they were grateful for, aligning with CASA DC's focus on mindfulness activities and fostering gratitude.
McLaurin also helped with the distribution of Thanksgiving giveaways. CASA DC distributed packages of non-perishable food and Safeway gift cards, ensuring nearly fifty meals reached the hands of youths' families and the wider community. Moreover, thanks to Politics and Prose, DC’s premier independent bookstore and cultural hub, over 40 culturally inclusive books were distributed. Timely winter wear, 92 doses of Narcan (with the potential to save lives), and several other essential items found their way to those who truly need and will appreciate them.
Everyone on the CASA DC team worked hard and put in long hours both the day of and in weeks prior to prepare for the event. A special shout out to the fantastic administrative assistant, Rebecca “Becky” Astronomo, who secured the site and many of the donations. Becky’s own family tradition is to include Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider to the Thanksgiving celebration, which she made sure to include at CASA DC’s event; nothing establishes a familial environment like a heartwarming holiday tradition!
An encore performance is expected from the amazing staff in a few weeks at CASA DC’s Holiday Event, which will provide holiday gifts to court-involved youth in the DMV area. As Terry McLaurin’s cereal box says, it’s crunch time, and by that, we mean that CASA DC is working tirelessly to collect donations for the upcoming event. Please share the gift drive registry to spread the news and help maximize gift donations. The link will send you to the Amazon wish list to directly place an order!
-Brooklyn Hemphill, CASA DC Communications & Development Intern
*CASA for the Children of DC would like to acknowledge that Indigenous Peoples recognize Thanksgiving as a day of mourning. It is a time to remember ancestral history as well as a day to acknowledge and protest the racism and oppression which they continue to experience today. Furthermore, the Friday following Thanksgiving Day of each year, American Indian Heritage Day, also sometimes known as Native American Heritage Day, recognizes the native American heritage, history, and contributions (use this link to learn more).