I had a proud mama moment the other day.

My daughter, just shy of 4, worked up the courage to jump into the swimming pool all by herself. From the side, mind you, not the steps.

That may not seem like a big deal in the grand scheme, but to a 4-year-old, it is a very Big Deal. In the past, she demanded that her father or I catch her, refusing to risk the water splashing into her face or rushing over her head. But then something clicked, and now jumping in from the side is all she wants to do.

I wish you could see her, in her mermaid swimsuit and orange floatie.

She always pauses at the edge of the concrete to make sure we’re watching. Stretching out her arms like airplane wings, she begins the count. Sometimes it’s to three, sometimes it’s to “eleventeen” or twenty.

Then she pushes off, tucks her knees in and cannonballs into the pool. The water rushes over her head; sometimes she comes up sputtering. But now she immediately starts paddling for the steps so she can do it again.

Recently her efforts reminded me of our CASA volunteers – ordinary people who chose to push off from the safety of their everyday lives and jump into the waters of the child welfare system.

They start paddling, advocating tirelessly for abused and neglected children to receive the services they need while in foster care and for safe, permanent homes. Sometimes the waters of a case are smooth, but sometimes they’re choppy and difficult to navigate.

It takes passion, courage and determination to “just keep swimming” on behalf of these children, but our volunteers rise to the challenge every day.

Last year, CASA of Trinity Valley served more than 800 children from Anderson, Cherokee and Henderson counties. We are proud to count 130 East Texas residents as active advocates, but the number of children coming into foster care continues to grow each year – and with it, our need for new volunteers.

If you have ever felt a desire to help children, please call us today at (903) 675-7070 or visit www.casaoftv.org for more information or an application. Our next training class will be held in July.

May we all feel so strongly called to help our communities that we fling our arms out, push off from the side and cannonball into the water. Indeed, what a splash we could make if we all jumped together.

Emily Heglund is the executive director of CASA of Trinity Valley and a guest columnist in the Athens Daily Review.

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