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CAN-AM 2015 tournament proceeds profit local community

  • Published
  • By Mary McHale
  • AFNORTH Public Affairs
A day on the links during the annual CAN-AM 2015 golf tournament May 28 meant a lot more than stories of drilled drives and perfect putts for one local organization.

Guardian Ad Litem, an organization that advocates for children in the court system because of abuse or neglect, received a donation from tournament proceeds June 10 at their downtown Panama City office.

Guardian ad Litem According to Fred Hapner, Director, 14th Circuit Guardian ad Litem, the program relies on a network of trained volunteers who are appointed to cases by the court.  Once appointed, Hapner said volunteers meet with children and get to know them to stay apprised of any issues  or concerns the court should be aware of throughout the case process.  Volunteers also keep the children informed of any court actions affecting them.

"Our primary goal is to advocate for what is best for the child, and we have a wide variety of resources we can access to determine that," Hapner said.

He explained if people are interested in becoming program volunteers, they can  go through an application process and then a 30-hour training regimen, part online and part classroom.

Canadian Forces Sgt. Timothy Gillespie, assigned to the 101st Air Communications Squadron, 101st Air and Space Operations Group, has been a Volunteer Guardian ad Litem for more than three years.

"When you hear the stories from and about the kids, it breaks your heart a little," Gillespie said. "You start to realize how lucky we are and this seemed to be a good way to give back. If spending some time talking to them, a little more time in court talking to judges or just sitting with them while their case is decided - if it can help them, it's the least we can do."

Jim Barr, 14th Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Board President, said children in the program often arrive with little more than clothes on their backs.

"This generous support is much appreciated," Barr said. "We can use this money to address both immediate and longer-term needs of children  in the program. Thank you for giving back to the community."