Award presented to Dale Hedges at Nashville ceremony
NASHVILLE, Jan. 25, 2013 -- Dale Hedges of Clinton has been named the 2013 CASA Volunteer of the Year by the Tennessee Bar Association Young Lawyers Division (YLD). The award recognizes Hedges' 18 years of service as a volunteer for CASA of the Tennessee Heartland, which serves children in Anderson, Blount and Scott counties.
Knoxville lawyer Katrina Atchley Arbogast, chair of the YLD Children's Issues Committee, presented the award to Hedges at a dinner in Nashville on Jan. 18. A cash gift also was presented to Naomi Asher, executive director of CASA of the Tennessee Heartland, to benefit the agency's work.
Hedges was selected as this year's recipient for his longtime service, effective advocacy and consistent commitment. According to Asher, who submitted the nomination, Hedges is the agency's longest serving volunteer and has represented 29 children in 19 cases during his tenure at CASA.
Two years ago, at the age of 84, Hedges decided to retire from CASA. Six months later he was called back to represent four siblings that again found themselves in the court system. Hedges had worked with the family in the past and the presiding judge specifically asked him to take the case. He did and continues to represent the children today - volunteering more than 20 hours and driving more than 200 miles each month to visit one of the siblings, who has special needs and lives in a residential facility hours away. Despite the distance, Hedges visits the child each month and works with teachers, therapists and medical providers on a weekly basis.
In addition to being a longtime advocate, Hedges has been an effective advocate. Looking back through his cases, Asher says she could not find a single instance in which his recommendation was not accepted by the court. Throughout his tenure Hedges maintained an excellent reputation, often being specifically requested by judges and family members to handle cases. Hedges also has recruited new CASA volunteers, and his colleagues often call on him to share his experience and wisdom.
In reflecting on his years of volunteering, Hedges says, "There is nothing as rewarding and memorable as participating in the legal process of permanently removing an emotionally and/or physically...abused child from uncaring parents, and placing the child with parents who want to protect, love, cherish and take care of the child's every need."
Each year, the YLD selects a Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) volunteer from nominations made by Tennessee's local CASA agencies. The award recognizes a volunteer who goes the extra mile in his or her work with children in the state. CASA volunteers are appointed by the courts to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children and to ensure they do not get lost in the legal system or languish in an inappropriate group or foster home.