HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Dozens of people gathered at Veterans Memorial Park in Waveland Tuesday night, to raise awareness for an organization that helps the youngest and most vulnerable of us all.
"I'm proud to live in a community that comes out and stands up for kids. It met our expectations and more. It also gives me hope that next year's could be even bigger," said Cynthia Chauvin, the executive director of CASA of Hancock County.
The 3rd annual Light of Hope ceremony honored those who have made an impact on Hancock County's Court Appointed Special advocates program, known as CASA. One of those award recipients was local restauranteur, Thomas Genin. In 2015, his restaurant helped to raise almost $19,000 for CASA.
"After you have kids you realize that they're absolutely, 100 percent dependent on their parents, or whoever is their primary caregiver, and their environment. If they're in a bad environment, there's no good that can come from that," said Genin.
After the awards were presented, there was a butterfly release in honor of those who have passed away, but were a part of the CASA program. Special butterflies were released at the end for children who are currently in the system.
"The public, the larger community doesn't ever see these faces. And to think about those butterflies, I see faces of babies that have done nothing wrong and so it's personal to us," said Chauvin.
But Chauvin wants to make it personal for the larger community. She says the recent death of a toddler in Hancock County due to alleged child abuse is another unfortunate example of why the community has to be educated on this serious problem.
"Three hundred kids for a county of only 45,000 people is not acceptable, and our community can rally to make this better and our systems can rally," said Chauvin.
Click here if you're interested in becoming a CASA volunteer.