PURDYS, N.Y. – Purdys resident Kathie Collins will be honored by the Mental Health Association of Westchester on Wednesday with a Spirit Award for her work as a volunteer court-appointed special advocate, assisting neglected and abused children who are slated for foster care.
When Collins was widowed five years ago, she says, “I was in a terrible fog. I knew I had to get back into life. I searched the Internet and I found this CASA program, and it grabbed me. It was not only the opportunity to change the life of a child. You could be changing the life of his children, too.”
“I'd been living in a dream world,” Collins says, describing her life before she became an advocate. “I couldn’t understand how you could be mean to a child. I never knew there were all these children out there who struggle with life and are forgotten. It’s not their fault. And we do very little for them.”
Collins went through a six-week training program and was assigned to a 4-year-old resident at the Andrus Children’s Center in Yonkers. “Nobody wanted him because he’s emotionally damaged,” Collins said.
“His mom was physically and verbally abusive. He’d been abandoned by everyone. He needed consistency, knowing that no matter what he did, you’d be back.” His mother’s visiting rights have since been terminated.
Collins visits the boy once a month and they talk on the telephone at least every other day. “He calls me Miss Cathie. He says, ‘Are you coming tomorrow? Will you bring me some chips and brownies and chocolate chip cookies and Starbursts?’
“Of course I bring them. I always bring his Starbursts. He likes basketball, the Lakers. I brought him some Lakers posters, but he was more interested in the food.”
The child is now 9 years old.
When she noticed he was becoming somewhat aggressive, Collins brought her 3-year-old King Charles spaniel, Brady, for a visit. “He was so kind and gentle with the dog. He was like a different child.”
Collins took Brady to train as a therapy dog in the 11-week Good Dog Foundation program at Four Winds Hospital. Brady was such a good student he graduated in five weeks.