Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) support the needs of abused or neglected children in court. On Tuesday, two Payson CASAs were honored for eight years of dedicated service with CASAs Distinguished Award.
Through seven court cases, Leslie and Robert Tarallo have helped 10 children since first volunteering in the program in 2002.
Currently, the Tarallos are active on two cases involving four children. They are also CASA mentors for three children.
Katrisha Stuler, Gila County CASA coordinator, said the Tarallos are one of three CASAs across the state to receive this prestigious award.
In her nomination letter to the state CASA board, Stuler wrote, “I could write pages and still not cover everything Leslie and Robert have done to better the lives of the CASA children with whom they have worked. Instead, I will share just some of the highlights.”
The second case the Tarallos took over involved a 12-year-old girl. In the middle of the case, it was transferred out of county to Pinal.
“Leslie and Robert drove from Gila County to Pinal County for every single court date and foster care review board. At one point, this 12-year-old girl was labeled unadoptable. Leslie and Robert fought hard against this label and today this child has been adopted and is living in a loving home where she has been for more than three years.
“They still have contact with this young lady. She calls Robert and Leslie her ‘CASA grandparents,’” Stuler said.
Stuler added that the Tarallos are always thorough in their CASA work, attending all court hearings and meetings on their cases.
“There is never a doubt that the children they represent have a strong voice,” she said. “They work tirelessly for the dependent children they serve and provide the court with vital information. They are simply put — the model of what a CASA should be.”
Kendall Rhyne, Gila County chief of probation, congratulated the Tarallos at Tuesday’s potluck and thanked all 30 CASA volunteers in Payson.
“The model you set for youth is remarkable,” he said. “We must model good behavior because if we don’t, who will?”
Also at the awards event, Julie Williams was recognized for serving 16 years with Gila County’s CASA program, the longest of any volunteer.
“Julie is amazing and we are so fortunate to have her as a part of our program,” Stuler said. Bonnie Marcus, state CASA program manager and Presiding Judge Peter Cahill also attended the event and congratulated all volunteers for their exceptional service.
With April being Child Abuse Prevention Awareness month, volunteers are going “blue,” with blue being the official color of child abuse prevention. Stuler encourages all to wear a blue ribbon during the month to show support for the cause.