Love is in the air. Chocolate, champagne, a romantic dinner and music all say Valentine’s Day love. The CASA for Kids, Inc., Red Shoe Gala will provide all that and much more this Valentine’s — all for the love of kids.

CASA’s largest fundraising event, the 11th annual Red Shoe Gala will be held Saturday, Feb. 15, at MeadowView Conference Resort & Convention Center. The evening will begin with champagne and hors d’oeuvres at 5:30 p.m. along with a large silent auction. A decadent dual entrée dinner prepared by MeadowView’s new acclaimed chef and featuring filet mignon and shrimp, salad, rolls and dessert will follow. Following dinner, master of ceremonies Preston Ayres from WCYB will introduce Max Richardson for the live auction. A “Red Shoe” competition will highlight the best men’s and ladies’ red shoes of the evening. Then gala-goers will dance the night away to the music of the Extraordinaires from Hickory, North Carolina.

“It is just a really fun night! Many use the Red Shoe Gala as their Valentine’s celebration. We see not only couples, but groups of friends or companies who may buy tickets for an entire table,” said Mary Kilpatrick, CASA for Kids, Inc., executive director.

What is CASA for Kids, Inc.? Sadly, there are kids in the community found to be in unsafe or unstable home situations where they may be subjected to abuse or neglect. That is where CASA comes in. CASA — which stands for court appointed special advocates — is an organization of extensively trained volunteers who are assigned by juvenile court judges to help kids in these situations.

“CASA works along with the court and DCS, as well as other community partners like the Children’s Advocacy Center. Our goal is to ensure safety and stability for all kids we are assigned to,” Mary explained.

“Now, 96 percent of our cases involve drug or alcohol abuse or domestic violence,” Mary continued. “As advocates, we thoroughly investigate and interview everyone involved in a child’s life, create an unbiased factual report and then make recommendations to the presiding judge on what is best for the child involved.”

Recommendations can range from drug and alcohol services or anger management or parenting classes, counseling, placement of the child with grandparents or other relatives, etc. Upon these recommendations, the judge makes the decision for these children according to the law.

“In 2019, we advocated for 306 children in Sullivan and Hawkins counties. We are there for our children from the beginning all the way to the end, no matter how long it takes,” Mary said proudly. Some cases can last a few months up to several years.

CASA got its start in Kingsport in 1991 and became CASA for Kids, Inc., in 2005, covering all of both Sullivan and Hawkins counties. They have offices in Kingsport, Bristol and Rogersville. Mary became its executive director in 2013 after serving as a volunteer in 2012 because of her love of kids. Besides having two daughters of her own, she is also a foster mom of two other daughters, one with special needs.

CASA for Kids, Inc., currently needs more volunteers.

“With drug usage increasing drastically, we have a huge need. Our volunteers are very committed, but not everyone may be suited to volunteering in this capacity,” Mary admitted. CASA volunteers go through an extensive background check, 40-plus hours of training including classroom and at-home training, courtroom observation, and then partner with other staff members before they can be assigned cases. CASA has strict training procedures and policies to follow, and confidentiality is extremely important.

CASA for Kids, Inc., also needs volunteers for its new mentoring program called “Fostering Futures,” which teaches teens basic life skills.

Tickets for the CASA for Kids, Inc., Red Shoe Gala are $125 per person. Tickets can be purchased up until Feb. 14. Ordered tickets are then available for pickup at the beginning of the event, along with an assigned auction bidder number.

To find out more about CASA for Kids, Inc., volunteer or purchase tickets, visit or find them on Facebook. You can also call (423) 247-1171, ext. 3 for tickets, and ext. 1 for more information about volunteering to help meet the needs of a child.