[St. Augustine, FL] – The Florida Guardian ad Litem Program is celebrating as cyclist Chris Dieringer completes his ride from California to raise awareness for programs serving abused, abandoned and neglected children. He arrived in St. Augustine on Saturday and dipped his front tire at Crescent Beach.
Dieringer began his journey in San Diego on Feb. 28 to call attention to the Guardian ad Litem and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) programs, which represent children in dependency courts across the country.
In Florida, these children are represented by Guardian ad Litem, and in the Seventh Judicial Circuit, which serves St. Johns, Putnam, Flagler and Volusia counties, there are more than 1,500 children in the child welfare system and almost 500 without a Guardian ad Litem volunteer. Statewide, more than 13,000 volunteer child advocates represented more than 39,000 children in 2018.
“Chris’ ride brings attention to the cause,” said Guardian ad Litem Circuit Director Shirley Holland. “It brings attention to a volunteer’s generosity and his commitment to do good things for the children we serve – whether we serve them in New York, Texas or Florida.”
Dieringer, who is retired, was a volunteer child advocate for 5 years, and is encouraged by the interest his trip drew from potential donors and volunteers. He was escorted on the last leg of his trip by St. Augustine Sheriff’s Deputy Sam Sheffield, who rode with him from the county line to Crescent Beach.
“It’s not an easy thing,” Dieringer said of representing abused and neglected children. “It’s a really tough assignment. But it comes with really big rewards when you can see the impact on a child.”
Holland said her program must take advantage of every opportunity to recruit volunteer advocates for maltreated children. These volunteers are trained and supported by professionals to be the voice in court helping to find each child find a safe, permanent home. Children with a Guardian ad Litem volunteer do better in school, receive more services and are less likely to return to foster care than children without.
“It means the world that one of our volunteers would do this, because it’s so heartfelt,” said Guardian ad Litem Executive Director Alan Abramowitz. “We congratulate Chris, and we thank him.”
For more information about the Guardian ad Litem Program or to become a volunteer, visit www.GuardianadLitem.org or call 1-866-341-1GAL.