By Karla Bowsher firstname.lastname@example.org
A crocodile, a shark and a pig were among the visitors at the Splash House water park Saturday.
Participants in CASA’s annual sand sculpture contest created the animals with shovels and spray paint.
The contest is the only fundraiser of Court Appointed Special Advocates of Grant County, or CASA, a Marion-based nonprofit organization that advocates for abused and neglected children countywide.
“On the whole, we use this fundraiser to support the training of the volunteers,” Executive Director Leslie Hendricks said.
This year’s contest, the sixth, broke records.
More than $17,000 was raised before the sculpting started amidst a threat of rain Saturday morning. That amount is more than ever, Hendricks said. It included 26 sponsorships at the $500 level, which is also more than ever. The total amount raised from the event will be known Monday.
CASA board member Michael Belcher, who has served on the sand sculpture subcommittee since its formation as his children pitched the idea to CASA, attributed the increase in financial support to more awareness in the community.
“More people are aware of the need for CASA,” he said.
That awareness in turn helps the nonprofit bring in more volunteers too, Belcher said.
The organization currently has 48 volunteers, though 66 Grant County children are on the waiting list.
Volunteers advocate for abused and neglected children’s best interest in court, Hendricks said. They look at the children’s living and family situations as well as their medical and social needs, to help judges make informed decisions.
Hendricks attributed the sand sculpture contest’s record success to more awareness of CASA’s effect in the community.
“They realize we are doing what we say we do,” she said. “People want to know that their contributions make a difference.”
Hosting a fundraiser that’s not another golf outing or car wash also helps, she said.
“We’re just most proud that this is just such a unique, family-friendly event,” Hendricks said. “To have a sand sculpture contest in landlocked Marion, Ind., is just so unique.”
Some teams start planning their sculptures weeks in advance, she said.
Marlena Brown and her granddaughter Nevaeh Smoot, 7, rode their bikes to the Splash House to check out the finished products. Brown said she comes every year.
“I just think it’s neat,” she said. “There’s always something new.”
Smoot said her favorite sculpture was the volcano, though she enjoyed building her own creations in the sandy sidelines as much as scoping out the sculptures.
“She’s going to be a future builder, hopefully,” Brown said.
Four teams received an award Saturday.
The People’s Choice Award went to Moe’s Southwest Grill for the crocodile, and the Golden Pail Award, a spirit award, went to Via Credit Union for the pig. The Schramm Family Award went to Riverside Community Federal Credit Union for a butterfly, while the Raisin’ Award, based on how much donations teams raise, went to Catey-Williams Dentistry for an erupted volcano called “Mt. Casa.”
For more information about CASA, visit casaofgrantcounty.com.