CASA advocate knows value of being  a voice for a child

Court Appointed Special Advocates, Regional Resource Development and Marketing Coordinator Mark Ogle, right, talks to Store Manager Lori Swigart at The District on Main about the spring Paper Doll fundraiser. Renee Fite | Claremore Progress

Mark Ogle, regional resource development and marketing coordinator for Court Appointed Special Advocates, has been with the organization since September 2021. 

He is responsible for the overall management of CASA’s fundraising and outreach activities in Rogers, Mayes, Craig, Ottawa, Delaware, and Washington counties. 

“In essence, I have the privilege of sharing the message of who CASA of Northeast Oklahoma is, and the services we provide to children in need in the foster care system,” said Ogle.

Right now, there are more children eligible for CASA assistance than there are volunteers available. 

“Also, [there's a] need for financial donations to allow us to provide services. I consider it a privilege to be able to let people know how they can be part of making a difference in a child in need’s life,” Ogle said.   

His interest in CASA came from experience as a foster family.

“My wife, Karen, and I were foster parents for more than a decade. We witnessed firsthand how much of a benefit it was to have a CASA volunteer assigned to one of our foster children," he said. "Their input was invaluable in successful outcomes for these children. When the opportunity came about for me to work directly with CASA of Northeast Oklahoma, I jumped at the chance to help daily make an impact in the lives of these children."

There are 70 CASA volunteers among the regional partners.

A CASA volunteers visits a child on a regular basis and could be the one constant for the child through the whole process. 

“They get to know the child and their family so the court has a clearer picture of the circumstances of the child and their family. They investigate the circumstances of the case, monitor the progress of the parents and other caregivers, facilitate needed services, and advocate for the best interests of each child,” he said. 

CASA volunteers prepare a written report to the court, in advance of each hearing, that provides fact-based recommendations about the best course of action to ensure the interests of each child are honored. 

“They are often referred to as the eyes and ears of the judge. They are central to fulfilling society’s fundamental obligation by making sure a qualified, compassionate adult will fight for and protect a child’s right to be safe, to be treated with dignity and respect and to learn and grow in the safe embrace of a loving family,” Ogle said. 

The next CASA training is in March, after Spring Break.  

“Every day, I have the opportunity to work with the greatest people in the world – a group who are dedicated in working to help children, who through no fault of their own, find themselves removed from their home and placed in foster care,” he said. 

The Ogles have called Claremore home for 32 years. 

 “What makes it a great town? I know this sounds like a cliché, but it is true: It’s the people. They are very caring and always ready to help their neighbors in need,” said Ogle. 

For CASA of Northeast Oklahoma, the best aspect of 2022 has to be the number of foster children to whom they were able to provide CASA volunteers, and the life-changing impact they made in these children’s lives, he said. 

 “We are going to be holding our second annual Paper Doll Project in Rogers County during June. During that month, area businesses, organizations and individuals agree to sponsor 'foster,' name and dress up a wooden cutout of a small child, size 3T to 4T. They dress up the doll in the cutest attire they can find and then display the dolls during the month,” Ogle said.

The results don’t stop at the end of June. All clothing, shoes, and other items with the dolls are distributed to children living in foster care through CASA and area clothing closets. 

“This is both an awareness and fundraising project,” said Ogle.

Participating and displaying the dolls brings awareness of the plight of these children and the situations in which they find themselves. Also, it raises financial support so CASA of Northeast Oklahoma can continue to promote and support quality volunteer representation for children to provide each child with a safe, permanent, and nurturing home. 

“If anyone is thinking they might want to get involved with CASA of Northeast Oklahoma, either as a volunteer, board member or making a donation, I would ask them to please contact me at (918) 694-2510 or mark@casaneok.org. Always remember that nothing you do for a child is ever wasted. To please consider helping change a child’s story!” Ogle said. 

As he heard one of the CASA volunteers once say when asked why they do it, “She said, if not me, then who? So, if not you, then who?” he said.

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