Some people just have a gift for seeing beauty and positivity in the world. April’s CASA Volunteer of the Month, Julie McGraw, is one such person. This busy mother of two daughters is an active, dedicated volunteer who also runs her own photography business, where she specializes in portraits and event photography.
In addition to making the people in front of her camera look good, Julie also has a strong desire to give back. A little over a year ago, she was telling a friend about how she’d been looking for a place to volunteer. She wanted to find an organization where she would really be able to make an impact, where she could roll up her sleeves and help where it was most needed. That friend saw an ad for CASA in Wayne Today, and made the connection for Julie. She completed training and was sworn in in June 2018.
Since then, Julie has served as an advocate for a sibling pair: a two year old and a five month old. They aren’t living together, so Julie does double duty visiting both of them in their homes, daycares, and schools. Thankfully, her photography work schedule is flexible, so Julie is able to see them on a regular basis. When she visits the five-month old child, Julie focuses on observing interactions with his caretaker and assessing his developmental milestones to make sure he is on-track. That same approach allowed her to notice a speech delay in the older child. Julie advocated for speech therapy, which has helped the child open up and share more of her personality.
When asked about a particularly memorable experience as a CASA volunteer, Julie described a recent visit to see the older child in daycare. When Julie walked in, the child’s face lit up. She smiled and held her arms out. That moment of recognition and the joy on the child’s face is etched in Julie’s memory. It is moments like that that remind Julie she is truly making a difference and all her hard work has been worth it. Of the experience she’s had as a CASA volunteer, Julie says, “I like to help. I like to be there.”
As if that wasn't already enough service for one person to undertake, Julie has also lent her photography talents to the CASA office, taking headshots of staff and serving as a photographer at several events, including our Open House and Voices for Children Gala. Julie also recently spoke at a training class for the newest group of CASA volunteers, telling them about her experiences in her first year as a CASA. When asked about how she manages volunteering, family life, and running her business, Julie replied, “I’m busy, but I’m glad it is like this. I just make it work. I’m that passionate about doing this.”