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  • Megann Horstead

8th annual Christmas Express to support CASA of Will County


All aboard? The Christmas Express is set to launch on Dec. 3 and Dec. 4.

Court Appointed Special Advocates of Will County is now selling tickets for the nonprofit organization’s eighth annual Christmas Express.

The fundraising event will support the effort to train community volunteers to represent and advocate for abused and neglected children of Will County.

Executive Director Rita Facchina said the event is designed to please.

“They certainly get their share of fun,” she said.

At Joliet Union Station, face painting, games, cookies and cocoa are featured. The Will County Railroad Association will also set up a train model for viewing.

CASA is partnering with area high schools and woman’s groups.

“They’re dressed as elves and they’re assisting them to board the train,” Facchina said.

The train arrives in Tinley Park for pictures with Santa, a sleigh ride and crafts.

At the Viking Lodge, CASA will set up Santa’s village.

“This is a family event,” she said. “The holiday is about family. We’re wanting them to step back and reflect. Not everyone lives in a safe home. The work of CASA is to make sure they, too, can live in a safe environment.”

During the holidays, Facchina explained that families tend to be more in stress prompting the organization to see more Department of Child and Family Services calls driven by a variety of issues.

Facchina said when these kids are coming in for care, they’re sometimes removed from their families and that can be challenging.

DCFS typically steps in while cases are mitigated in the courts.

The role of the CASA volunteer is crucial considering the fact that investigations can linger, according to Facchina.

“A CASA volunteer gets involved to advocate for the child,” she said. “A lot of children tend to get lost in the cracks. They’re following up with children to make sure they’re safe. Our vision is no child gets left behind.”

Facchina said the Christmas Express is the organization’s second largest fundraiser.

“We now support 60 percent of the kids in the county and our goal is to support 100 percent of kids,” she said.

On average, the Christmas Express raises between $40,000 and $45,000.

Tickets are $35 per person and the cost includes breakfast or lunch at Durbin’s, hot cocoa, cookies, activities and a raffle to win a holiday gift basket.

“We’ve got over 1,100 (tickets) sold now,” Facchina said. “These last tickets will sell out quickly.”

Departures from Joliet Union Station occur every two hours beginning at 8:15 a.m. with children and their parents traveling to Tinley Park. The final train leaves at 2:15 p.m. and returns to Joliet by 5:50 p.m.

All proceeds will help the organization to continue advocating for abused and neglected children in the county.

CASA of Will County is a sponsor of United Way. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit casaofwillcounty.org


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