At breakfast and lunch April 25, Trudy Strewler Hodges had an unusual request for her guests: "Join me and close your eyes."

She didn't have a surprise awaiting the 1,400 Light of Hope attendees. Instead, she asked them to "think of the children in your life and think of your hopes and dreams for their lives."

Her own closed-eyes dreams for her granddaughter, Coco, said Hodges, were for joy, confidence, love and fulfillment. "But most of all, what I want her to have is safety."

That's the dream of the 23-year executive director of CASA and the 240 trained CASAs who are advocates for the community's children. Last year hundreds of children out of 1,000 were left waiting for advocates who could help them find permanent or permanently safe homes. "We have this dream of closing that gap," said Hodges, and part of that dream, she said, is "Vision 2020," a concentrated, peer coordinator program "to serve every child in need, every day, every year."

Board member Wayne Bland took a deep breath and shared his own heart-stopping story of being the small-town boy from a middle-class family who at age 8 stepped between his parents to take a blow meant for his mother. His father was a heavy drinker, Bland said.

By age 12, when other boys were dreaming of being firefighters or policemen, baseball players or lawyers, Wayne Bland just wanted to be a dad, a good dad unlike his own.

That came true when he married and had a little girl who has always made her dad smile and his eyes sparkle. Today she has a successful career in Kansas City and Dad couldn't be prouder. Along with being his daughter's advocate, Bland says, "now I stand up for the children of CASA."

The goal for the Light of Hope breakfast and lunch was to raise $290,000 to serve more children who need advocates. At last count, more than $330,000 had been raised. "We are so happy," said an elated Tracy Sellars, CASA PR and Communications Manager.

Light of Hope co-chairs were DeeAnn Rothstein and Jacki Kintz and their committee included Claire Boynton, Marsha Fogarty, Jamie Gessner, Stephanie Hanenberg, Lauren Hug, Debbie LaRoss, Pamela Paige, Debbie Reardon, Jerri Roush, Lisa Simms and Mary Stark.

Co-presenting sponsors were El Pomar Foundation and motif, and other sponsors included Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Co., Ent Federal Credit Union, Kiwanis Rocky Mountain Division, and Penrose-St. Francis Health Services.