Each month, Child Advocates of Northeast Oklahoma (CANO) celebrates the advocacy of one of our CASA volunteers. This month, we celebrate the service Mary (Van Valkenburg) Mizer, a volunteer advocate in Rogers County.

Mary and her husband live just outside of Chelsea on their 80-acre farm. Mizer retired from Hillcrest Hospital as a financial advisor eight years ago. However, she is anything but retired. She works with her husband taking care of their herd of Limousin cows. She is also very involved at Foyil Assembly of God, serving as president of the Joy group, serving in the card ministry, and is a member of the praise and worship team. In addition to her work at the church, Mizer also enjoys working with her daughter for Relay for Life.

When asked what drew her to the work of CASA, Mizer reflected on her upbringing. She grew up in and out of multiple foster homes. A few of the families she lived with were wonderful people who left a lasting impact; most, however, were not healthy homes to live in. “As I look back at all the foster parents who impacted me, I hope to be someone who will be looked back on as leaving a good and lasting difference,” Mizer said.

One of the more difficult aspects of volunteering for Mizer is witnessing the heartbreak of the children and foster parents involved in her cases. She has true empathy for them because she remembers what it is like to be in that situation. It’s difficult to see the cycles of brokenness and hurt.

Mizer is a fantastic volunteer with a gift of relating to the children. In order to connect with children Mizer said she likes to visit the kids involved in her CASA case at daycare. She lit up telling the story of reading to the class her child was in and then giving the book to that little girl. The girl was excited to take the book home that night.

Mizer knows the impact teachers and daycare providers have on the children. That is the other reason she likes to visit the kids there. She knows she will get the truth from these caretakers and educators who are with the children every day.

Mizer is clearly passionate about helping families in her community through her CASA work. Her appeal to anyone interested is to “Make sure you are right with God because you will need his help. You’ll certainly need tough skin. It’s not an easy road, but it is so, so worth it.”

Although the road is difficult, Mizer did mention a couple of times when she realized she was making a real difference. First, the young girl in her CASA case saw her at the store. The girl ran up to her so thrilled to see her. It was obvious that little girl looks up to Mizer and loves her dearly. Second, was again at a store, when a stranger noticed Mizer’s CASA badge and simply thanked her for her service with the organization. That woman had adopted and was currently fostering and knew first-hand the impact of the CASA organization.

Mizer’s selfless attitude and servant’s heart is exactly what children throughout Northeast Oklahoma need. That mindset is also what we look for here at Child Advocates of Northeast Oklahoma – CASA. We are in constant need of more dedicated volunteers. If you are inspired by Mary’s story or the work we do in general of being the voice of neglected and abused children, do not hesitate to contact us for more information.

Child Advocates of Northeast Oklahoma/CASA

Child Advocates of Northeastern Oklahoma is a CASA agency that recruits, trains, and supports community volunteers to be the “voice” for abused and neglected children in the judicial system.

With offices in Claremore and Miami, the organization supports CASA volunteers in five counties in northeastern Oklahoma – Rogers, Mayes, Craig, Ottawa, and Delaware Counties. The agency also serves the courts of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma.

Child Advocates of Northeastern Oklahoma is a member agency of the Ottawa County United Way.

People interested in learning more about CASA can find information about on the agency’s website: http://cano-casa.com/. To support the work of our CASA volunteers, go to http://cano-casa.com/ways-to-give/ and click on the “donate” button.

By Brandon Fletcher, Marketing and Resource Development Coordinator - Child Advocates of Northeast Oklahoma