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story.lead_photo.caption The Tri-Lakes Court Appointed Special Advocates will host its first Superhero Fun Run on Sept. 22, starting at the Hot Springs Convention Center. Executive director Desternie Sullivan, who is posing with a flyer for the run, said she has had a passion for kids ever since she one. - Photo by Staci Vandagriff

— Don your cape, and join the race to help protect those who are the most vulnerable.

The first Superhero Fun Run will take place Sept. 22, starting at the Hot Springs Convention Center. The 2K race, which kicks off at 9:30 a.m., will benefit the Tri-Lakes Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, and is presented by Southern Bancorp.

“We have a saying in CASA,” executive director Desternie Sullivan said. “The volunteers who advocate for children are everyday superheroes, and they we wear invisible capes.

“They save the lives of children and make a difference. This is a great opportunity for us to put on an actual cape and run to raise awareness for children in foster care.”

Sullivan said it is meant to be a fun run and is not timed but is just a great family fun day for the entire family to come out and have a great time, dressed up as their favorite superheroes.

“We have had several families say they want to be the Incredibles

family, and we have volunteers who will be villains for the children to chase during the race,” Sullivan said. “We will have pre-race stretches with superheroes, [beginning at 9 a.m.] We will also have awards for best costumes that will be presented on the main stage during the annual Spa-Con.”

Registration for the race costs $30 per person or $100 for a family of four. Team sponsorships are available for $250. There is no deadline for registration, as on-site registration will be available. The first 100 adults and 100 children to register will receive a free cape and mask.

“One of the unique things about the run is that every race registration gets a general-admission pass for Spa-Con, so it is a win-win,” Sullivan said. “You can support CASA and our efforts for every abused and neglected child in foster care in our three counties and, at the same time, earn a general admission pass for Spa-Con.”

Sullivan said she is not sure who she is going to dress up as for the race. She said she has tossed around the idea of being Wonder Woman, Catwoman or even Captain Marvel.

“I just haven’t decided yet,” she said.

Sullivan said CASA recruits, trains and supports volunteers to help with abused and neglected children in the foster-care system. She said the advocates help children get a voice during a dark time.

“Our goals are in the best interest of the child,” Sullivan said. “We want to see all of our children in a safe and happy home. Our goal is to provide stability and to be their voice.

“We give their wants and their needs to the judge, and we want to ensure that no child falls through the cracks — that every child in care has the things that they need.”

She said CASA volunteers are everyday superheroes.

“We say it all the time. Our volunteers wear invisible capes, and they work hard,” Sullivan said. “They volunteer their time to make a difference in the lives of these children and to see that the best interest of these children are being met.

“We advocate for their need and their interest in court and outside of court. We work with attorneys, [the Department of Human Services] and schools to ensure that the needs of our children are being met.”

Sullivan, who has been in the executive-director position for 18 months, said she has had a passion for kids ever since she was a kid herself. Her dad, Larry Richmond Sr., was a preacher in Osceola, and every Sunday, he would host a breakfast for children in the area.

“My dad and mom were surrogate parents to many, but the passion for kids definitely came from my father,” Sullivan said. “I went to law school knowing I wanted to be an advocate for children.”

Sullivan’s dad died in 2002, and she said that when she lost her father, it felt like so many also lost theirs.

“I always felt like that was my calling, to make a difference for children,” Sullivan said. “When you get in CASA and see the difference you make, it makes it all worthwhile.”

Sullivan, who went to law school at the University of Pittsburgh, said her group of volunteers are amazing and are some of the most “giving people I have ever met.”

“My team is also amazing,” she said. “They care, and there is not one person who doesn’t come in and give it 100 percent.

“They are constantly looking for new ways to recruit and educate our volunteers on the latest trends so that we can serve our volunteers better and our children better.

“They make my job easy.”

Staff writer Sam Pierce can be reached at (501) 244-4314 or spierce@arkansasonline.com.

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