Soccer mom, avid reader, and CASA Advocate
You’re the only person on my team, he said. I know you’re always going to have my back. With a smile on her face, Cheryl Kelesoglu’s heart swelled with happiness. The young man sitting next to her was her CASA youth, a boy she had been advocating for since he was just twelve years old. Through all the ups and downs in his life, she remained by his side for the past six years; and, for Cheryl, knowing that he sees her as a constant, supportive presence in his life is the most rewarding feeling of all.
“Cheryl has managed to guide, support, and at times speak much-needed wisdom into her CASA youth's life and has done it with delicate concern, care, and commitment,” says Michele Musick, CASA of CGS Senior Advocate Coordinator. “Cheryl is always there to answer her CASA youth’s many late-night phone calls in crisis, or just to talk, and she does it always with a smile.”
It’s moments like these that remind us why give back; and for Cheryl, giving has been a lifelong commitment. Before joining the CASA team, Cheryl served as the Director of Philanthropy at the Hoboken Family Alliance, an organization dedicated to bringing families together through civic, social, and educational opportunities. It was through this position that she learned about CASA and began giving back to local CASA programs through grants awarded by the Hoboken Family Alliance.
But Cheryl wanted to do more. She felt that if she had the time and the means, she should spend it doing something worthwhile–and that is exactly what she did. In 2016, Cheryl joined the CASA team as a traveling advocate, supporting CASA youth from South Jersey who had been placed up north.
“Cheryl is a true CASA inspiration,” says CASA of CGS Program Director Jennifer Henderson. “Volunteering for children in foster care can take many unexpected twists and turns, making consistency a challenge. Despite multiple twists in Cheryl’s advocacy journey for her CASA youth, she has remained steadfast in ensuring her connection remains with her youth no matter the circumstance or the distance.”
Even in cases where her CASA youth was moved back down south and she was no longer required to advocate for them, Cheryl continued to support them in any way that she could–because that’s just the type of person she is.
“Cheryl is such a special gift to our program and programs throughout the entire state of New Jersey,” Jennifer continues. “Her tenacious, altruistic efforts led her to a staff position within the CASA network; and even though she wasn’t required to visit her CASA youth any longer as her volunteer, she was adamant about remaining as her volunteer to ensure her connection didn’t waiver with her youth. It means the world to our team that a volunteer would go to any length to continue offering what a CASA can do best: be a consistent, caring adult.”
Now, as she continues to advocate for her CASA youth, Cheryl also serves as a Case Supervisor for CASA of Essex County, thanks to her unwavering commitment and exceptional work ethic. Her dedication to creating positive change for youth in foster care all throughout the state is inspiring, and we are blown away each and every day by the impact that Cheryl has made on our organization and on the lives of countless children in New Jersey.
“It takes a village to help raise children,” says Michele. “And I am glad Cheryl is a part of our village.”
We are so lucky to have such a powerful force for children in our CASA network with Cheryl on our side. Year in and year out, she goes above and beyond for her CASA youth and all youth in foster care throughout New Jersey. Thank you so much, Cheryl, for everything you do. You are making our world a brighter place every day, and your hard work never goes unnoticed!