Douglas County, Kansas

CASA Sponsor Spotlight: Q&A with Board Member Tom Karasek of CEK Insurance

May 31, 2024

Douglas County CASA routinely puts out a call for volunteers to join its board of directors — those responsible for governing the nonprofit and overseeing its operations. In 2022, Tom Karasek of CEK Insurance heard about the board service opportunity through his business partner’s spouse (a longtime CASA volunteer) and reached out to learn more. Tom recognized that CASA’s mission to help children and families aligned with his personal values and those of CEK, and he sought to offer his time, skills, and resources to advance our goals.

“Tom is incredibly thoughtful and has a great deal of knowledge about insurance and running a business,” says Erick Vaughn, Executive Director. “Furthermore, given his experience serving on other nonprofit boards, Tom knows what it takes to engage the community in an organization’s mission.”

Through his role as a board member, one way Tom has worked to engage the community in CASA’s mission is through CEK’s lead corporate sponsorship of Winds Across the Prairie — an evening bringing together supporters of child advocacy for a concert by the KU Wind Ensemble held at a picturesque outdoor setting in Douglas County. The sell-out event — now in its fourth year — raised more than $150,000 for CASA in 2023.

“Tom and his partners at CEK have done a tremendous amount to bolster our efforts to improve child welfare and prevent children from falling through the cracks,” says Vaughn. “We are deeply grateful for their leadership and support.”

As the September 20, 2024 Winds Across the Prairie concert approaches, we visited with Tom about his role as a board member and corporate sponsor, and why he thinks it's important for local businesses to support CASA.

How did you first become aware of CASA? What motivated you to become involved as a corporate sponsor and Board member?

I first became aware of CASA through the “CASA playhouse” fundraiser. For many years, sponsors covered the cost to design and build a children’s playhouse, which was then showcased around town and raffled off to raise money for the nonprofit. 

It wasn't until CEK became a sponsor of the first Winds Across the Prairie event that I started to research CASA and its mission. When I learned about the number of children on the waiting list for an advocate, I knew this was a cause CEK should support — and I felt I personally had something to offer as well.

In your capacity as a Board member, what do you do to bring awareness to CASA and help it succeed?  

I try to bring awareness to CASA throughout my daily activities. Whether I’m with friends, family, coworkers, or clients, I find openings to tell them about CASA's mission and why it is important to me that children in Douglas County who have experienced abuse and neglect have someone in their corner looking out for them.

As a corporate sponsor, what is your role in making Winds Across the Prairie a successful event? 

As a corporate sponsor, CEK sets the pace in communicating the importance of this event and how crucial it is to fulfilling CASA's mission. That in turn allows CASA to focus on its goal of securing an advocate for every child in Douglas County who would benefit from a CASA volunteer.

How does the Winds Across the Prairie annual fundraiser effectively engage the community in support of CASA’s mission?  

This event succeeds in creating heightened awareness of the number of children in Douglas County who are on a waiting list for a CASA volunteer. It also is a chance for those attending to listen to real life stories from volunteers on how CASA changed a child's life — and, in turn, how a child changed the life of the volunteer.

2021 Winds Across The Prairie Event

Winds Across the Prairie is one of the most talked about local fundraising events of the summer. Last year all the tickets sold out in less than an hour. 

What do you say to members of the business community when you are encouraging them to become a corporate sponsor of CASA?  

We start by discussing their level of awareness with CASA. Do they know that CASA's goal is to serve every child in Douglas County who is in the foster care system? That at any given time that the number of children could be as high as 165? That these children have often been abused or neglected? With corporate sponsorship, a community business can ensure those children receive the help of a CASA advocate as they wait for a permanent home.

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Change a life with CASA

At any given time, there are 165 children from Douglas County in the child welfare system due to abuse and neglect. Help us help those children who are still waiting for a CASA volunteer.