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What's Up Magazine

Off to the Races

Aug 03, 2015 11:53AM ● By Becca Newell

Rob McWilliams, Chrissy McWilliams, Mike Russell, Mandy Russell, Mike Brown, and Jamie Brown

The venue was nothing less than perfect at CASA of the Mid-Shore’s third annual Preakness-themed party, Off to the Races, held Saturday, May 16th.

This year’s event, graciously hosted at Bill Davenport and CASA Board member Bruce Wiltsie's Hemmersley Farm at Emerson Point, provided the perfect backdrop of green fields and a wide view of the majestic Miles River. Over 280 guests enjoyed a dazzling evening of fun complete with live music, the 140th Preakness Stakes© aired live on big screens, and gourmet cuisine.

Each year, Off to the Races benefits CASA’s important work with children in Talbot, Dorchester, Queen Anne's, and Kent counties, who are under court protection due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment. 

New this year - leading up to the event, twelve local Celebrity Jockeys raised money for the opportunity to compete in the CASA Stakes, the funniest Virtual Horse Race Game on the planet. Participating in two preliminary heats were Celebrity Jockeys John Dillon, Brian Gearhart, Bill Griffin, John Hunnicutt, Bobby Van Fossan for Susan Mandl, Mary Lou McAllister, Rob McWilliams, Maxine Millar, Patricia Spitaleri, Brett Summers, George Torggler, and Dean Tyson. Six of these good sports advanced to the final CASA Stakes Race, and the Win, Place, and Show winners were: Dean Tyson, Brett Summers, and Rob McWilliams. The Virtual Horse Race was the talk of the evening, and guests joined in the fun by challenging friends to see who could get their virtual horse to the finish line first!

Emcee Sandy McAllister brought just the right touch of leadership and hilarity to the evening, no small feat given the lively crowd. During the Winners' Circle, fantastic prizes were awarded to all twelve jockeys, as well as to the winner of the Best Lady’s Hat, Lori Ramsey, and the winner of the Best Dressed Gent, Brain Gearhart. A random drawing for a bottle of Lyon Rum and a Rum Tasting Party for 30 at Lyon Distilling Company was won Mike and Jamie Brown.  

The Off to the Races committee was chaired by CASA of the Mid-Shore Board Members Mary Lou McAllister and Bruce Wiltsie. The event committee once again excelled in their flair for the evening's ambiance, décor, entertainment, and prizes.

“We extend special thanks to all committee members, hosts, and hostesses, and to the entire team for their combined devotion, hours of time, materials, and talents, which they cheerfully and willing provided. Without this spirit, our event wouldn’t capture the hearts of our guests as it so powerfully does!” said McAllister.

CASA of the Mid-Shore is a private non-profit organization that provides volunteers to advocate for children who are under the protection of Talbot, Dorchester, Queen Anne’s, and Kent Counties Circuit Courts because of abuse, abandonment, or neglect.

“This evening we're Off to the Races in our quest to raise funds necessary so that we can serve children who need CASA by their side. We are dedicated to giving these children the chance that they so deserve, the voice that they need, and the hope that CASA can bring. This event was only possible through the incredible support of our generous sponsors, hosts, guests, and the monumental effort of so many who volunteered their time and talents to create this spectacular evening," said Robin Davenport, CASA's Executive Director.

Supporting CASA is a way for people to help local children and also a way to empower a community. A child with a CASA has one adult Court Appointed Special Advocate looking out for their best interest and advocating at every turn for what that child needs. Studies show that children who have CASA volunteers have their needs identified sooner, and services to meet those needs are put into place more quickly than for children without CASA volunteers.

Community members, civic groups, clubs, and businesses who want to support CASA of the Mid-Shore’s unique services or to find out how to become a CASA volunteer are encouraged to call 410-822-2866 or go to