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Honorees 'light of hope' for children
CASA recognizes 12 for service
CASA light 4 es
The South Forsyth High School chorus performed during the CASA Light of Hope banquet Thursday night at Mountain Lake Church. - photo by Emily Saunders

Those receiving 2009 Light of Hope Awards included:

-- Jessica Abernathy, 17, mentor to Otwell Middle School students and Special Olympics volunteer; she is the first recipient of the Youth Serving Youth Light of Hope Award

-- Kelly and Jason Burndrett, foster parents in the process of adopting twin girls

-- Janice Davis, seven-year CASA volunteer

-- Debbie Drake, counselor at Coal Mountain Elementary School

-- Kelly Edwards, church director of youth ministries and cheerleading coach with Bennett Park football

-- Dotty Fobes, second-grade teacher at Coal Mountain

-- Maribeth Joyner, social worker serving schools in northeast Forsyth

-- Nan Martin, Girls on the Run volunteer

-- Mary Meador, social worker/adoption case manager with DFACS

-- Anne Preston, juvenile court worker

-- Jennifer Pirrung, guardian ad litem attorney with the juvenile court system

-- Amy Saindon, Girl Scout volunteer

On the Net

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The Forsyth County Department of Family and Children Services received more than 1,100 referrals of child abuse and neglect last year.

In Georgia, there are typically more than 92,000 cases reported to DFACS each year.

Nationally, the estimated annual cost resulting from such cases each year is $104 billion, according to Prevent Child Abuse Georgia.

Despite the seemingly overwhelming numbers, there are those who commit themselves to solving the problem of abuse. A few of these people were recognized Thursday during Court Appointed Special Advocate's annual Light of Hope event.

The agency, known as CASA, presented 12 Light of Hope awards to people who consistently make a difference in children's lives.

Mary Lamond, CASA executive director, told the crowd of nearly 300 at Mountain Lake Church that they had come together to "honor several individuals providing a light of hope to children."

In addition to honoring volunteers, the evening was also about raising awareness of child abuse and neglect and inspiring action.

Lamond said the number of suspected child abuse and neglect referrals to DFACS in 2008 nearly equalled the enrollment at Cumming Elementary School.

"We must endeavor to do more," she said. "We hope tonight inspires you find ways to do more for children in our community."

The event also included remarks from Nicole McCoy of the Forsyth County Community Connection, keynote speaker Shirley Garrett and Juvenille Court Judge J. Russell Jackson.

Charles Laughinghouse, chairman of the county commission, read a proclamation recognizing April as Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month.

Members of the South Forsyth High School chorus also performed.