by Emily Ostrowski
Volunteers are the lifeblood of YWCA Clark County. We could never provide the resources for our community that we do without their selfless work and dedication, and we love to take any opportunity to celebrate their achievements. That is why it fills us with great pride to announce that this year’s recipient of the Washington State CASA of the Year is our very own Judy Walter!
Judy has served as a CASA since February of 2014. She had always prioritized volunteer work, and decided to sign up after she was encouraged to join the program by a friend who was also a CASA, and knew of Judy’s love of children.
Judy, who spent 30 years working in the insurance industry before retiring 13 years ago, has made a it a priority to stay involved in her community, both as a CASA, as well as volunteering at her granddaughter’s elementary school every week.
Judy’s love of children is at the heart of her commitment to being an exceptional CASA, and something she says is essential for anyone thinking of becoming a volunteer. She also emphasizes the need to stay objective and clear-headed. “It’s a commitment, so you have to make sure you are willing to put in the time to do the best job you can for the children you are serving. Be prepared to become emotionally involved with the children you are advocating for, but be prepared to let go when the time comes.”
She notes it can be challenging to remain objective and not get too attached to the kids she is advocating for, but that the rewards that come with being a CASA far outweigh the difficulties. “The most rewarding thing about being a CASA is to see the kids at the end of the process, either reunited with parents or adopted,” said Judy. She continued, “It has also been rewarding to get to know foster families in our community, and to witness the love and care they show the children they foster. Many of the families I’ve worked with have fostered, and in some cases, adopted several children. The selflessness they show is inspiring.”
Judy also acknowledged the hard work of those at the CASA Program of YWCA Clark County, in particular her program specialist, Tanisha Harris. “She has helped me navigate the court system, provided guidance when working with anyone who touches my kids’ lives, and provided moral support during difficult times,” said Walter. “I’m grateful for her support and partnership.”
Harris, who nominated Judy for Washington State CASA of the Year is similarly full of praise for Judy. “It was an easy decision to make in nominating Judy. She is an excellent CASA.,” said Harris. “I have worked with Judy for the past three years and have had the wonderful opportunity to watch her grow into her role as a CASA, fiercely advocate for the children she represents, and work with the entire Family Treatment Court Team in a respectful and focused way.”
Harris was overjoyed when she got the news that Judy had won Washington State CASA of the Year. “I was thrilled and so happy for Judy! I know the committee made the right decision.”
For her part, the award came as a total surprise to Judy. “I had no idea I had been nominated so to find out I won was a total surprise”, said Judy. “I was both honored and humbled when I received the call that I had won CASA of the Year. I called my husband and my daughter right away to share the good news!”
Judy will be presented with her award during the Washington State CASA 25th Annual Conference taking place November 4th-5th at the Vancouver Hilton. Walter admits to being a little nervous for the ceremony. “Being the center of attention is not comfortable for me,” she said. “However, I’m excited about the luncheon and look forward to being surrounded by my family, fellow CASAs, and program support staff. I’m not sure if I will be expected to speak, but plan to have a few words prepared, just in case!”
On behalf of everyone at YWCA Clark County we congratulate Judy on her award, and thank her for her tireless commitment to the children she serves!