Throughout the year members of the Valparaiso High School, Varsity girls dance team, better known as the Valpo Vikettes, receive bountiful amounts of spirit wear from their parents, especially as gifts around the holidays. Spirit wear is anything that screams Valpo Vikings, from green and white hair clips to ribbons and accessories. This past Christmas, the Vikettes decided to approach their holiday gift receiving a little differently.
“The parents started talking about Christmas and the tradition of giving spirit wear to the girls,” said Julie Ault, mother of senior Vikette Gracie. “We kind of thought they really didn’t need any more.”
Julie proposed the Vikettes work with Porter County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) to donate Christmas gifts to a family in lieu of receiving spirit wear themselves.
“Julie had asked me if there was someone in need,” said Sarah Fink, Porter County CASA Program Director. “She then approached the girls and they were all on board.”
“I ran the idea passed Gracie and then to the girls at practice and everyone really liked it,” Ault said. “Coach Phelps was in favor of it, too.”
“I was totally in. It was something we did together to benefit other people. Something bigger than ourselves,” said Vikette Lizzie Amones.
On a Friday afternoon, the Vikettes delivered the gifts at the CASA office. The team busted out in song chanting Valparaiso High School’s classic fight song before they left.
The team was paired with a single dad with five children. The girls were given sizes and genders of the children with $55 allotted to spend on each child in the family.
“We got clothes, shoes, various toys and then wrapped them together and personally delivered them to the CASA office so the CASA volunteer assigned to the case could bring them to the children. The entire experience created stronger team morale,” Gracie Ault said.
“It taught me to think before taking things for granted. Just knowing other people aren't able to have those opportunities puts it in perspective,” said senior Vikette Abigail Rochford. “We would love to make this a regular thing.”
Fink, the Vikettes, and their families believe this type of give-back is an inspiration to others in the community, and even more so to those in high school. Fink says others who are too young to become CASA volunteers (must be age 21) have asked how they can help CASA, and it is so heartening, but also challenging because of HIPPA considerations.
“What the Vikettes were able to do was something that worked out for everyone, and we were so grateful. The staff is giving more critical thought to empower the youth to help CASA and Family and Youth Services Bureau, and make whatever contribution within their means,” Fink said. “ We hope this story shines on them.”
For more information about CASA, visit https://www.fysb.org/casa-program.