Carnival helps support for vulnerable children

By Mike Genet

The rebranded “CARnival for CASA” – the annual fundraiser benefiting Jackson County Court Appointed Special Advocates – will be 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at Unity Village. The drive-thru event will include a variety of activities to enjoy socially distanced in a car.

About 350 CASA volunteers advocate for children in Jackson County who are removed from their homes for their safety. Last year, the organization served more than 1,200 children, though CASA officials say that’s still fewer than half the children in the county removed from homes for safety by the court system. 

The carnival fundraiser draws several hundred people, and funds help pay for CASA staff, supplies and the organization's older youth program. Tickets are $30 per child or $60 per carload, and the public can also sponsor a CASA child for $30.

The festival will have at least 16 activity stations, plus entertainment such as balloon twisters, a stiltwalker, princesses and mascots between the stations. Activities include exotic animals and birds, antique cars, music, arts and crafts, temporary tattoos, a bubble machine and a raffle. 

Popcorn, cotton candy, ice cream shakes and boxed lunches will be available for everyone in the car, and families can receive back-to-school supplies, masks and hand sanitizer. 

Tambourine man ‘Jack Snaps’ is shown at a past CASA Carnival. Sunday’s rebranded carnival, benefiting Jackson County Court Appointed Special Advocates, will be a drive-thru event at Unity Village.

“For some of these kids, and especially in light of what’s going on now, they don’t have chances to do anything,” said John Newsam of Lee’s Summit, a former CASA volunteer and member of the board of directors, who along with his wife Susie serves as honorary co-chair for this year’s carnival. “I’ve enjoyed so much seeing the kids come into the carnival, so excited and they got to do all these things.

“It’s a great chance to just have fun and be kids and have a good time for a change.”

Newsam, who ran a commercial insurance business in Kansas City and then Independence, said when he started as a CASA volunteer, the organization served about 600 to 700 children.

“The sad thing is, while the goal has been to reach at least 50 percent of children in the court system, our number would go up each year, but also the number of children going into the system would also grow,” Newsam said.