Finding a new purpose in 2018: Volunteering ranks as 'priority'

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It’s a season known for retrospection and resolution. As the new year creeps closer, there’s a natural tendency to look back on the year. And as the calendar rolls over to 2018, resolutions start to shape the coming year. Brayton Pickard knows a little about making the most of 2017. He’s spent the year volunteering with Northeastern Indiana CASA in DeKalb County, and is looking to continue his impact in the new year.

Brayton Pickard is a volunteer with Northeastern Indiana CASA serving DeKalb County.

Brayton Pickard is a volunteer with Northeastern Indiana CASA serving DeKalb County.

“Working as a CASA makes me thankful for my personal situation,” said Brayton. “I am thankful for my childhood and that my parents loved me. It gives me perspective on how I want to raise my kids and how they see and experience things. Those feelings propel me to give the kids I work with a chance to have a little of what I had growing up.”

Northeastern Indiana CASA provides volunteer advocates for children who are involved in judicial proceedings. These trained volunteers speak for the child’s best interests and work to improve their circumstance and quality of life. In addition to DeKalb County, Northeastern Indiana CASA serves Lagrange, Noble, Steuben and Whitley counties.

Brayton was first introduced to CASA while he was in graduate school in 2008, but it took several years before he became a volunteer.

“I thought CASA sounded cool and it was interesting,” said Brayton. “But I didn’t think I had the time or the availability to get involved. When I moved back to the area, I knew I needed to do it now if I was going to get on board.”

Brayton is now married and a father. He said it is likely he has less time to give as a volunteer now than he did while he was in graduate school, but he’s made it a priority. “You make time for the things you think are important.”

Brayton is one of the youngest volunteers currently working with Northeastern Indiana CASA. At a time when most men his age are focused on family and career advancement, it seems he has chosen to look at his stage in life as the “perfect” time to become a volunteer.

“You will always find things to keep you busy or make excuses to not get involved. You’re going to fill your time with something, so why not choose to make a difference? Right now, I have the stamina and energy to juggle it all. If I’m not going to do it now, when?”

This will be Brayton’s first Christmas as the CASA for the children he has been assigned. He said although they are younger, the children are starting to make a connection.

“They know me now and recognize me when I come to see them,” Brayton said. “They are starting to see me as someone who supports them and as a sort of caregiver. I don’t think I am changing the world, but I am there for them and sometimes that’s what they need most.”

Community members might be considering volunteering as a CASA, but the task can seem overwhelming. However, training is offered throughout the year to help equip volunteers for their roles as advocates.

“When you think about it, I’ve had more formal training to be a volunteer than I’ve had to be a dad,” said Brayton. “We don’t always have to know the answers. There’s great support in the board and staff at our office. What’s important is that volunteers are emotionally invested and want to give a couple of hours a month to a kid that needs them. Anybody can do this. Honestly, with the support and training we receive, you can do this. If you’re thinking about it or are interested in it, don’t build it up in your head. Just realize that it’s your heart that counts most.”

To learn more about Northeastern Indiana CASA or to get volunteer information, visit