By Derek Beigh email@example.com
Computer Age’s eight-foot-tall version of Thomas the Tank Engine won the staff’s “Golden Pail,” one of four awards given to local organizations that participated in CASA’s sole fundraiser Saturday.
“For me personally, what is neatest is it’s fun and carefree, which is different from what we do on a daily basis,” said Executive Director Leslie Hendricks. “We serve kids of abuse and neglect in Grant County and speak on their behalf in court.”
This year, 25 businesses registered to build castles in sand plots next to the Splash House, the third consecutive year CASA sold all 28, Hendricks said. The event raised more than $16,000, a new record after last year’s $15,000.
New groups this year included American Wireless; Ewer and Moritz; Premiere Home Health Care; Tan Lines; and Tree of Life Bookstore.
Though some groups did not build on their plots, the event produced several impressive sculptures, including Maidenberg Associates’ minion from “Despicable Me”; Oak Hill Golden Eagles Art Club’s miniature golf course with three complete holes; Premier’s igloo and penguins; Tree of Life’s multi-colored tree; the Wal-Mart Distribution Center’s American flag; and Thomas.
Bartrum said his business was the “defending champion” after winning “People’s Choice” in 2012 with a version of Tow Mater from “Cars” and wanted another sculpture kids would like and be photographed with.
“We keep getting bigger every year,” he said with a laugh.
Bartrum and a team of seven employees and family members started at 7 a.m. building Thomas off-site before finishing on-site from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
The sculpture included two five-gallon barrels, a wooden frame, paint and a working air-powered whistle.
“A lot of the other groups stopped by with their kids for pictures,” Bartrum said. “Some of the older guys got into it too.”
Other award winners included “A Pirate Looks at 40,” from two private supporters — Michael Belcher and Kenny Bettegnies — who won the “People’s Choice” trophy for building two giant pirate ships; Westminster Presbyterian Church, which received the “Raisin’” award for gathering the most funds in its bucket with $230; and Charles Street Community Federal Credit Union, which won the “Schramm Family” award for its representation of two children holding the world.
The “Schramm Family” award, Hendricks said, is selected by the family of former Westminster Pastor Rev. Andy Schramm, a CASA volunteer who died in 2005.
Two of the church’s children, then-10-year-old Bradley and then-7-year-old Lauren Belcher, came up with the fundraiser idea in 2009, and Hendricks — who became executive director that May — said her first two months were spent preparing the inaugural Art Fest.
Both kids and their father Michael attended Saturday, and Bradley served as master of ceremonies.
“We love doing fundraisers, especially for kids,” he said. “I provide moral support (for the event).”
Via Credit Union — which has participated each of the past three Art Fests, including winning the “Schramm Family” award in its first year for a piggy bank sculpture, said teller and four-year volunteer Karli Martin of Gas City — was shut out this time. Its sculpture was a man’s head with sunglasses and a mustache above a sign reading “stash your cash.” Marketing Assistant Samantha Bacon of Hartford City said the motif is a year-long campaign for Via.
“It’s fun and creative,” she said. “It’s something different.”
Bacon and Martin teamed with employees Kim Speidel of Hartford City and Iris Brunner of Marion to spend more than four hours on the sculpture, but they remained in good spirits in the afternoon.
“We enjoy getting involved. … We know it’s a good cause,” Brunner said. “If there’s an opportunity to help CASA, we want to do that.”