Meet the Illinois CASA Staff
Illinois CASA champions children by supporting, uniting, and growing local programs to provide a court appointed volunteer advocate for abused and neglected children throughout the State.
Mari joined the CASA movement as a volunteer advocate in 2012. Shortly thereafter, she joined the staff of CASA Lake County and moved to the State Office in October of 2017. With a background in resource development, Mari understands the complex and diverse funding and organizational development needs of the Illinois CASA network.
Her previous non-profit experience includes serving as the Program Officer in Education at the Chicago Community Trust and working as the Board liaison at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. She began her career in management consulting. Mari is a graduate of Stanford University and completed her graduate work at the University of Chicago.
Mari lives with her family in Chicago, and you can find her at home in her kitchen or a yoga studio almost anywhere in Illinois.
Director of Training
Kristen joined CASA in 2009 working for the local program in Coles County as the Office Clerk, Advocate Coordinator and for the past 4.5 years as the Executive Director. As Executive Director, she expanded services in two ways: becoming a GAL program in Coles County and expanding services to Cumberland County. Kristen went to Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL earning an American Intercultural Ministry Bachelor’s degree. She resides with her family in Charleston, IL and spends time playing her violin and using her voice in a bluegrass band, Big Blue Mountain, or on the worship team at Home Church. Kristen serves on the Citizen’s Against Child Abuse agency as the Secretary and attends monthly DCFS meetings for the Foster Parent Recruitment Team. Kristen joined Illinois CASA in November 2018.
Meet Our Board of Directors
Chris is the CEO of the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, a nonprofit charged with supporting businesses and growing the economy in Central Illinois. He has worked in public service jobs for over 20 years, including homeless services, youth services and local government. Chris grew up in Burbank, CA. He received his B.A. in political science from the University of Notre Dame and a Master’s degree in public administration from the University of Colorado – Denver. Chris, his wife and two daughters have lived in Peoria for over 15 years.
Board of Directors
Kate has been an advocate for children in Illinois for more than 20 years. She has worked in child welfare as a case worker, supervisor and manager and spent the most recent 10 years advocating for improvements to child welfare policy, practice, and legislation. Kate has a B.A. from Shimer College, an MA from the University of Chicago – School of Social Service Administration, and a JD from Loyola University Chicago where she was a ChildLaw Fellow.
Board of Directors
Missy currently serves as the Executive Director of Dispute Resolution Institute, a nonprofit that provides mediation services throughout Illinois. Since she was a child, several members of Missy’s immediate and extended family have fostered, adopted and/or taken guardianship of children involved with DCFS. These experiences led her to study child welfare and her first career as a foster care case manager in St. Louis City. She also has volunteered as a GAL, a CASA for Williamson County, and as a mediator in abuse and neglect cases. Missy has a Bachelor’s in Social Work from Saint Louis University and a Juris Doctor degree from Southern Illinois University School of Law. Missy, her husband, daughter and two cats live in Southern Illinois.
Board of Directors
Lynn is the co-owner and President of Nova Fire Protection, Inc., a family business that designs and installs commercial and residential fire protection sprinkler systems across the Chicagoland area.
Social service has been a core principle of Lynn’s life and she has been a consistent advocate for children through association with various non-profits as well as experience as a school social worker. Lynn joined CASA Lake County as a volunteer advocate and soon joined the staff as an advocate manager. She has a B.A. from Northeastern Illinois University and MSW from Loyola University Chicago- School of Social Work.
Board of Directors
Linda is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago specializing in the treatment of children undergoing surgery for acute and chronic conditions, with a particular focus on neonatal patients. Her passion for children’s law and policy, including health related legislation for children with special health care needs, has spurred her advocacy efforts for this population. She completed a Health Policy Certificate at Thomas Jefferson University in 2016 and is in the final stages of completing a Masters of Jurisprudence in Children’s Law and Policy at Loyola University of Chicago School of Law. She is a member of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners’ (NAPNAP) Health Policy Committee, was a 2018 NAPNAP Advocacy Scholar, and has spoken locally and nationally on a variety of children’s policy and advocacy related topics. Linda and her cat live in Chicago, Illinois.
Ellen began her volunteerism with CASA in Wichita Falls, TX where she became a teen specialist. Ellen worked on the cases of two teenage girls facilitating each case to a place of stability. Upon moving to Illinois, Ellen continued her CASA work with teens in the Will county office.
Ellen is an ICF Certified Coach, using her skills to work with both private clients and organizations to implement a coaching mindset into both the culture and the interpersonal relationships they participate in or lead.
Ellen is a businesswoman who runs a steel brokerage company. She has three grown children and will be celebrating 30 years of marriage this year.
Gloria Kelley, MBA, has served as the Executive Director of CASA Kane County for over a decade. During her tenure of leadership, Ms. Kelley has worked closely with her team and Board of Directors to build CASA Kane County into the largest CASA program in Illinois. Focusing on the pillars of People, Processes, Technology and Finance – Ms. Kelley always seeks to expand the CASA organization to ensure that the need of every child in foster care is met – and that every child has a voice in the courtroom.
Taryn Marko is the Program Director for Winnebago County CASA. She has served many roles within the organization since she began working with CASA in 2011, including volunteer advocate, trainer, and case manager to the volunteers in Winnebago County. She has served as director for the past five years.
Taryn grew up in Rockford, IL and received her Bachelor’s degree in Speech Communication from Eastern Illinois University.
“CASA work is so important because our volunteers are truly making a difference for each child they work with. I’ve been honored to work with volunteers who are able to help our young people find their path to a successful, and bright, future.” Taryn says.
Pamela was hired to open the CASA of Peoria County program in July of 2005 by the founding board of directors. CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates which recruits, trains and supervises community volunteers to advocate for the best interest of abused and neglected children moving through the juvenile court system. Since that time the program has grown significantly. An aggressive plan to grow CASA of Peoria County was adopted in 2011 by the board of directors for our Organizational 2015 Vision to serve more children each year. In 2018 CASA expanded to the full Tenth Judicial Circuit. Peoria County has over 1,000 and Tazewell has over 400 pending abuse and neglect cases in the juvenile court system.
Pamela is a single mother of five children and has 14 grandchildren. She enjoys entertaining, gardening, time with family and friends.
Mariah Hayes is the Executive Director with CASA of Franklin County. Mariah started as Advocate Coordinator in 2001 and has been the Executive Director with CASA of Franklin County for 15 years. Mariah also was on the National CASA Rural Advisory Committee and is honored to serve as the Southern Regional Representative with Illinois CASA.
Mariah received her Bachelor Degree in Social Work from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. She has been blessed to live in Benton, IL with her family for most of her life and looks forward to raising her children in the community where she works.
Mariah stated “It has been a blessing to be a part of the CASA mission since 2001. Over the years it has been a great joy to see the impact CASA Advocates have with the children they are court appointed to serve. To see these Advocates truly give their time, talent and heart to make an impact on the most vulnerable population, abused and neglected children, is awe inspiring and truly life changing!”