Helping Children Who Are Battling Illnesses
When Casey Baynes was in middle school, she saw a story on the news about horrendous floods displacing families throughout the Midwest.
She couldn’t stop thinking about a little girl going to bed at night without her lost teddy bear.
“It really bothered me,” Casey recalls. “I started making flyers and put them around my school and my church and collected bars of soap, blankets, stuffed animals, you name it.”
Casey has always jumped into projects at breakneck speed, and soon she stuffed her family’s garage with so many items they had to get two trucks to get them to people in need. Her family, which owns Wollenweber’s Trucking & Warehousing, fortunately, could carry the load.
Philanthropy became both her passion and her life’s calling.
She graduated from Salisbury University and went on to become the youngest recipient of a master’s degree at Towson University (at the age of 20), and, although she continued to volunteer, she decided to work for her family’s trucking and warehousing business.
But the pull of philanthropy continued to take hold, and she decided to create her own nonprofit organization, the Casey Cares Foundation, in 2000. What began as an attempt to lift the spirits of a handful of families with critically ill children has now become a full-time pursuit, complete with 10 staffers and countless volunteers. Today, 17 years later, Casey Cares has helped more than 800 families in seven states and Washington, D.C. Casey Cares works with children battling illnesses from cancer to cystic fibrosis to sickle cell disease.
Whether it is helping a family with something simple like tickets to a movie or a sporting event, or something bigger like a vacation to Hershey Park or spring training, Casey Cares provides activities for families with critically ill children from the moment a child is diagnosed, throughout the child’s treatment and even beyond. On average, Casey Cares families will participate in about six to eight activities.
“Imagine being in a hospital for days or weeks or even months at a time, or spending all of your time driving to doctors’ appointments,” Casey says. “Every child should be able to experience the joys of childhood and get to take their mind off the rigorous grind of medical treatments. That’s what we do at Casey Cares. We help families escape, even if it’s just for a few hours, and create lasting memories.”
Even though Casey’s reach has grown, she has never forgotten her time as a Towson Tiger and has frequently returned to campus to inspire current students and faculty to become involved in community outreach. This past April, Casey was the keynote speaker at the school’s Women In Leadership Conference, and she was featured in a series of TV commercials celebrating the school’s 150th anniversary.
Casey Cares’ most public fundraiser is one of Casey’s favorites, a 5K run/walk set for August 5 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. A lifelong Baltimore Orioles fan, she knows how much experiences like being on the field at Oriole Park at Camden Yards can mean for families. Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis and his wife, Jill Davis, are the race ambassadors.
“The Casey Cares 5K at Oriole Park at Camden Yards is a great way for our families, volunteers and sponsors to come together and support each other in an amazing environment,” Casey says. “The Orioles provide so many little moments and lasting memories for families who need them most.”
Casey, who turned 40 in June, continues to think of ways to grow her organization and help as many families as she can. Although she is proud of many numbers at Casey Cares, most notably that the nonprofit has provided more than 40,000 programs to more than 90,000 participants, there is one number that makes her beam: zero.
“I am so proud that I have never had to say no to a single family for financial reasons,” she says. “That’s definitely a sign of true success for Casey Cares.”
For more information on the Casey Cares Foundation, visit CaseyCares.org.