CASA turns woman’s life around |

CASA turns woman’s life around

by Merrie Leininger

Charmayne Holdeman was 11 years old when a Douglas County District Court judge removed her from her parents’ home and sent them jail.

Holdeman, now 19 and married with a child of her own, admits her life before or immediately after she was taken out of that abusive home was not perfect, but the incident brought a special person into her life.

Shele Pandl was assigned as her Court Appointed Special Advocate, or CASA, and remained her advocate until she was adopted at 18 by Zen and Diana Alldredge, owners of All About Dance studio.

“She became my main support,” Holdeman said. She always helped me feel hope. I wouldn’t have the husband I have today, I wouldn’t have the daughter I have today, I wouldn’t have the family I have today, if it wasn’t for her. I would be no better than my biological family.”

Holdeman said she recently has seen her family, who moved to California. Her three siblings all stayed with their parents when she insisted on being taken out of their home.

“I’m the only one who graduated from high school,”she said.

She also was continuing her education until she was married and became pregnant with Auberny, a blue-eyed 3-month-old girl. She now helps her husband’s mother, who works out of her home.

She and husband Ryan, who have been married one year, felt it was very important Char stayed in their Carson City home with Auberny until she starts school. Ryan works for Harrison Building Products in Reno.

In addition to Char’s adoptive parents, Ryan’s family, who lives in Ruhenstroth, has also adopted her as one of their own.

Ryan’s mother, Tammy Holdeman, who, by coincidence happens to be a CASA, said she sees cases like Char’s all the time.

“Sometime parents just don’t care enough. Some do and just lack the knowledge or the resources to take care of their child, and we can help them get those things. But you just can’t make them care,” she said.

Tammy, who has been a CASA volunteer for 2-1/2 years, said the CASA’s role is just to be there for the best interests of the child, no matter what else is happening in their lives.

“We let them know they’re not alone in the world. It really makes a difference in a child’s life,” Tammy said.

Shele was that constant in Char’s life.

“She had different foster homes, different foster parents, different social workers, different lawyers and judges, but I was always there,” Shele said.

Char’s case was a little unusual in that Shele was her CASA for about eight years – six years longer than the average case – because it took four years for the adoption to go through.

All during that time, Shele was there for her, Char said.

“She helped me get through things and realize I wasn’t alone. She helped me when I ran away from a foster home. Shele and I sat down and we talked about it and she made me realize I should have gone to her whenever there was any problem and we would sit down and figure out what to do,” she said. “She always was a big sister to me.”

Shele said she was glad she could be there for Char, but doesn’t take all the credit for the person Char is today.

“It makes me very proud, but a lot of it is attributed to her. We made a great team,” Shele said.

Char said Shele is still a close friend and paid for the wedding party cake as her gift to Char and Ryan.

“We will always be in touch,” Shele said. “I was with her since she was 11 years old. I watched her grow up.”

When Char first was taken out of her parents’ home, she was very depressed and did nothing but sleep and go to school.

But when Shele gave her an old bicycle she had, it snapped her out of that depression.

“I would ride that bike all over town,” Char said. “She did little things like that. She always took me school shopping and made me feel comfortable.”

Shele boosted her self-esteem and gave Char the first kind words she had heard after leaving her emotionally abusive parents.

“She told me we can’t let what happened with my family get to me and to get past that so I wouldn’t end up like them. She always wanted me to feel good about myself,” Char said.

Char said as soon as she turns 21, she will apply to be a CASA herself.

“I feel I have something worthwhile to give to children because I know what it’s like. I understand,” she said.

Anyone over 21 years of age can become a CASA volunteer. The group has been in Douglas County for 10 years now. For more information, call Director Jenean Clement at 782-6247 to get information about training that begins in October.