Comedian and Palm Springs resident Jason Stuart is one of the performers at the Comedy Night Dinner Show and Live Auction. “I love doing benefits with people in the audience who are there to support another human,” he says.

The Roost Foundation is celebrating Easter Sunday with two special events—both of which will benefit Voices for Children.

At 10 a.m., Sunday, April 9, the Roost Lounge will host the Easter Bonnet Brunch, with a drag show starring Deja Skye; an Easter bonnet contest and parade; and an Easter-basket auction. Then at 5 p.m., the Roost will be the site of the Comedy Night Dinner Show and Live Auction, featuring comedians Laurie Kilmartin, Jason Stuart, Mina Hartong and Nicky Paris.

Voices for Children is a nonprofit organization that provides volunteer court appointed special advocates (CASAs) to children in foster care in San Diego and Riverside counties. Comedian, actor and Palm Springs resident Jason Stuart said he’s thrilled to be taking part in the Comedy Night Dinner Show.

“I love doing benefits with people in the audience who are there to support another human,” he says. “The world is overwhelming today for the youth. There is a lot of fear-mongering, and many kids are feeling that we don’t have their backs. I’m doing this event because I have their back. We have to do something.”

What does this “something” mean in practice? The foster care system is overwhelmed. A social worker may juggle a caseload of 25 to 35 families, and lawyers can support up to 250 children in Riverside County, according to VFC. Because they are so overloaded, social workers and lawyers may not have enough time to gather all the information necessary to see the whole picture.

Enter court appointed special advocates (CASAs), who get to know individual children and their circumstances, and can make the case for these children in court. They have access to schools records, medical officials and anyone else involved in the child’s life. They attend the child’s court hearings and work with social workers and attorneys. VFC, the only court-designated agency to provide CASAs, gives these children voices, fights for them and can transform their lives.

“I sometimes think of a child’s coloring book when I consider the work of CASAs,” said Judge Laura Birkmeyer, of the Superior Court of San Diego County, to VFC. “The case files I receive are full of generalized reports from social workers and lawyers—they provide an outline of a child. But it is the CASA report that brings the child to life in my mind, that fills in the lines with color, making his or her personality and specific situation vivid, clear, and unforgettable.”

Gene Kennedy, a senior public information specialist for the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services, said there are about 3,400 children in foster care in Riverside County. Children are removed from their homes and placed in the foster-care system due to abuse, neglect or abandonment—and their lives can remain challenging while in foster care.

“They normally have been placed in six foster homes during their lives,” said Brianna Miller, philanthropy manager at VFC. “We bring stability to the child. We build rapport and trust, so they feel less alone in what can be a scary situation.”

The CASA is often the one person a child can count on. Children who have been assigned CASA volunteers on average receive necessary services sooner, for a longer duration, and more consistently than those children without a CASA volunteer, according to Miller.

The good news is that with the support of caring professionals and nonprofit organizations like VFC, children who have experienced this trauma can recover. Suamhirs Piraino-Guzman, who suffered horrific physical abuse from his father, said his CASA helped change his life.

“It was the first time someone took the time to explain things to me, who cared about my education and future,” said Piraino-Guzman, who is now an adult and an advocate for victims of human trafficking. “He put me back together again. He sparked a light in me—a regular person with a regular job with an extraordinary heart.”

Unfortunately, there are not enough CASAs. VFC needs more voices to speak for these children, and it’s hoped that these events will encourage more people to give their time and energy to help children in need.

“(CASAs) help them to lead healthy and successful lives,” Miller said.

The Easter Bonnet Brunch will take place at 10 a.m., Sunday, April 9; tickets are $79 for general admission, and $99 for VIP admission. The Comedy Night Dinner Show and Live Auction takes place at 5 p.m., Sunday, April 9; tickets are $95 for general admission, and $120 for VIP admission. Both events take place at the Roost Lounge, 68718 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Cathedral City. For tickets or more information, visit

Cat Makino

Catherine Makino is a multimedia journalist who was based in Tokyo for 22 years. She wrote for media sources including Thomson Reuters, the San Francisco Chronicle, Inter Press Service, the Los Angeles...