The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

March 26, 2013

Night with the ponies

Auction, horse races help CASA


DANVILLE — Officials with the local Court Appointed Special Advocates are heading to the track again this year as they hope to repeat the success of last year’s fundraising event.

The second annual Night at the Races and Hometown Celebrity Auction for CASA will take place on April 12 at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 310 Bryan Ave.

The mission of CASA of Vermilion County is to advocate for abused and neglected children within the juvenile court system by training and managing volunteers to represent those children’s best interest to the court.

The event sets up a night at the races scenario for people to place bets as they watch videos of actual thoroughbred races and cheer on their favorite horses. Happy hour begins at 6 p.m. and post time for the first race of the evening is at 7 p.m.

Jane Dobbles, board president and event chairwoman, said the reaction from attendees at the first event last year was amazing.

“The first time you do a fundraiser, you put it out and hope for the best,” she said. “But it was just a blast. People were cheering the horse races. They were so enthused.”

Horses can be “bought” by people at the event for $10 and the owners may name their horse.

“It’s a fun evening, very casual,” she said.

As for the auction side of the event, Dobbles said this year’s event is different than your average auction by featuring various experiences with well-known locals.

“We have got some really fabulous celebrities, hometown celebrities,” she said. “These are opportunities for a one-of-a-kind experience.”

She said CASA board members have worked since the beginning of the year, putting together a list of opportunities for people to bid on.

Among the experiences on the biddings list this year are lunch and a conversation or a day in Springfield with State Sen. Mike Frerichs; batting practice with former MLB catcher Darrin Fletcher; a Danville police ride along with Commander Jane McFadden; and a one-hour lesson and clinic with U.S. Tennis Professional Tennis Association pro Kathy Simpson.

Also on the auction block for the evening is a package of four tickets to a Chicago White Sox game; a trip for two to the Indianapolis Speedway in May in advance of Indy 500 weekend, along with a tour of the museum and garage; and four tickets to the CASA Royal Ball.

Dobbles said additional bidding items continue to be added to the list.

In addition to the races and auction, horse “owners” will be eligible for a 50/50 drawing that night while a drawing among ticket holders will be held for a new iPad. Additionally, a drawing for a prize will be held after each race from among those who bet on the winning horse.

The CASA program is not funded publicly, Dobbles said, and relies on grants, gifts and fundraisers to maintain its budget. She said last year’s Night at the Races fundraiser exceeded expectations.

The next training class for volunteers who want to help CASA will begin April 23. Persons interested in volunteering should contact advocate coordinator Jacqui Collins at 446-5975.