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By Josh Perry
Hometown Weekly Staff
When Bridget Akinc moved to the Boston area almost 20 years ago, it became a dream to run in the Boston Marathon. That dream will be fulfilled in April when the Needham resident joins thousands of other runners at the starting line in Hopkinton and begins the 26.2-mile course.
Akinc will be running her first marathon to support CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), an organization based in Boston that provides volunteers to monitor children closely who have gotten involved in the court and child services systems.
Although Akinc is not an advocate, the Boston College professor decided to run for CASA when asked by her friend, and fellow Needham resident, Mandy Mulliez.
“The work Mandy does to train, match and support CASA’s in their advocacy is so important to kids,” said Akinc in a press release.
She continued, “This quiet behind-the-scenes service gives an advocate to kids who don’t have the support of family and a voice to speak on their behalf.”
According to Charles Lerner, Executive Director of CASA for Children in Boston, the idea for CASA began in Seattle in 1977 with a juvenile court judge who saw the need for community members to get involved to provide support for children that have been through the child services system.
Lerner admits that the idea is still being “under-utilized” in Massachusetts but that the volunteers can make sure “things don’t fall through the cracks” of the system.
Each year, the organization has nearly 100 volunteers that will undergo 30 hours of training before being sworn in as CASA and assigned to children in the system. Many of the volunteers come from backgrounds such as social work, education, or health sciences, but Lerner noted that there are volunteers from all walks of life.
“What our volunteers brings is their time, passion, and compassion for the kids,” said Lerner. “They bring a lot of life experience and bring a sensibility into a system that doesn’t always act reasonably.”
Lerner added that many of the volunteers are activists by nature and believe in creating a better system for the children who in some cases are receiving below average care. “Many [volunteers] see it as a civil rights issue,” Lerner explained, “and they need to find a solution.”
The activism in a city like Boston, and also in a community like Needham, leads to plenty of interest in getting involved, but many are not aware of CASA or its mission.
Lerner said, “It amazes me the generosity of the people in our community. You just have to mobilize them because there are people who do want to help.”
Akinc has taken up the mantle of CASA for her first marathon and she will join a small team of two runners in April. The other runner is a student at Tufts University. Akinc is hard at work training with her “moms running group” in Needham (Jacque Murphy, Beverlie Marks, and Kay O’Malley) and, according to the press release, has found inspiration from her fellow runners to continue giving back.
“I am so lucky to have such a wonderful circle of moms around me who inspire me every day,” Akinc said. “In quiet ways, their priorities for their families, their work, and for those in need, creates a community that makes Needham a very special place.”
Lerner said of Akinc taking up the cause, “She shows there are ways for all walks of life to break down the barriers and to try and find a solution to this issue.”
Josh Perry is an Editor at Hometown Weekly. He can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.