After retiring from her career as a school nurse and counselor, Kathleen Gamblin started volunteering with CASA of the Pikes Peak Region to carry on her service to children. CASA was a good fit for the skills she had mastered working with high school students in the community. This is Kathleen’s 17th year as a Court Appointed Special Advocate, she is also a former board member and has recently taken on an even deeper role as a volunteer Peer Coordinator.
In March of 1999, Kathleen was assigned her first CASA case with a little girl named Diamond. This was a high profile, extremely difficult case in the community and county officials became involved. Judge Richard Toth was the presiding judge and, as we neared the closing of the case, he said: “This has been the most difficult case this court has seen in my more than 20 years on the bench.”
Diamond was only 4 years old when she was brought to the hospital with electrical cord whip marks on her body. While she was there, it was also discovered that she had been severely sexually abused. Kathleen visited Diamond in foster care, met with Diamond’s biological parents, teachers, therapists, extended family members, and worked with them to create a safe and healthy environment.
After a lot of careful investigation, Kathleen felt it was in Diamond’s best interest to be returned to her mother’s home. Her recommendations were accepted by the court, resulting in Diamond being reunited with her mother within 16 months. Ashley’s father is no longer involved in her life. Now, over ten years later, Diamond and her mother are both healthy, happy, and thriving.
Diamond is now a college student who credits Kathleen with motivating and pushing her to strive for the best. In high school, Diamond became student body president, president of the National Junior Honor Society, head editor and photographer of the yearbook, and a majorette for her school’s band. “Thanks to my CASA, Mrs. Gamblin, I felt empowered to achieve the best and to overcome my past,” said Diamond. “At first I was really scared, but over time I began to trust her and realize that she was my friend.” Diamond says Kathleen was instrumental in helping her deal with the emotional toll of her abuse. “Mrs. Gamblin constantly reassured me that what happened to me was not my fault,” she said.
Today Diamond continues to tell the story of how Kathleen transformed her life. Diamond spoke at CASA’s Light of Hope event and shares her experience with others so she can help other children in situations similar to her own. “Because of CASA, I have become a stronger person. My future plans are to become a culinary arts technician and maybe a CASA volunteer, just like Mrs. Gamblin. Thanks to her, I know all of the steps I need to take to reach my goals… even if I don’t, so long as I try my best, I am never a failure.”