Duke, Smith to Speak at Annual CASA Breakfasts

CASA of Northwest Arkansas will hold its fifth annual Light of Hope Breakfast … twice.

In an effort to accommodate residents in both Benton and Washington counties, CASA is hosting a Nov. 28 event at the Holiday Inn Convention Center in Springdale, and another on Nov. 29 at the John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers.

CASA has been active in Northwest Arkansas for 15 years, and has helped more than 2,000 abused and neglected children during that time.

According to the agency, it served 411 children in Benton, Carroll, Madison and Washington counties in 2011, a year-over-year increase of 11 percent.

The local chapter’s goal is to increase the number of children served by 10 percent each year.

Tyson Foods Inc. CEO Donnie Smith will serve as the keynote speaker at the breakfast in Springdale, while Wal-Mart Stores Inc. CEO Mike Duke will fill that role in Rogers.

The event is free, though attendees will be asked to consider making a donation.

In emailed statements, both Duke and Smith explained why they support CASA.

“My heart aches for the many children in Northwest Arkansas that end up in a vulnerable position, having been abused or neglected,” Smith wrote. “Since these children can’t speak for themselves, they need someone to help them get into an adoptive family, or to find their way to the home of an extended family member or even in some cases be reunited into their home when it is safe to do so.

“There just aren’t enough caseworkers to address the need, so having qualified, compassionate adults who will fight for the child’s safety and well-being and give them the chance to grow up in a loving and secure family is critical to their development. I want to help highlight the important work these volunteers perform and help raise the support they need to keep fighting to give these children the help they need.”

Duke wrote that he has firsthand knowledge of CASA’s power, having trained as a CASA associate and watched his wife, Susan, spend more than 11 years as an advocate.

“Our family has always had a calling to be a support and voice for abused and neglected children,” Duke wrote. “A trained CASA volunteer can make the pivotal difference in a child’s life through developing a relationship and in advocating for what is in the child’s best interest.”

For more information, call 479-725-2213 or visit nwacasa.org.