For years, the Gould Charitable Foundation — the charity founded to honor the memory of Matthew Gould’s father, Robert Gould, the former president of Kansas City-based DST Systems — has helped the Jackson County Court Appointed Special Advocates. In recognition of its continued generosity, on April 5 the foundation was honored at the organization’s annual Light of Hope fundraising breakfast.
CASA receives generous support from individuals, corporations and foundations throughout the metro area, said Martha Gershun, Jackson County CASA’s executive director. In fact, the organization’s largest business supporter, KCI Auto Auction, is located in the Northland. It holds numerous fundraisers and hosts an annual charity golf tournament at Tiffany Green. In addition, she said, many Northland residents serve as CASA volunteers.
The Giving Brick was a co-honoree. Gershun said their partnership was formed when Matthew Gould picked up the phone one day and asked what else he could do.
“It was really special for us,” Gershun said. “Funders don’t often ask what you need. There’s been a lot of give and take. Matthew’s a product-development guy — he’s always thinking, ‘How can we make this better for the kids?’ ”
When Gould learned that half of the 1,250 kids in the CASA system are girls, he worked hard, Gershun said, to re-create sets from the Lego Friends line, which is designed for girls.
In another meeting with Gershun, he floated the idea of providing some “grab ’n go” Lego pouches for kids attending CASA meetings.
“That’s made such a difference,” Gershun said. “For a 7-year-old to sit through a two-hour meeting — that’s not a fun thing to do. And when the meeting’s over, they get to take it home. It’s a ray of sunshine for kids who not a lot of good things have happened to.”
Gould also devised his Bottomless Box of Lego for kids at CASA meetings. While kids wait, they can rummage through a huge container of miscellaneous bricks, make whatever they want and take it home. The Giving Brick replenishes as needed.
“Most of our kids come from poverty, and live in poverty,” Gershun said. “They’re not in a position to buy a $150 Lego set. And these are absolutely gorgeous sets. Every piece is intact, and they have perfect instructions.”
Magic things can happen when kids start playing with Lego, Gershun said. When their hands are busy, they often start talking.
“You can’t just sit down and grill a kid, particularly ones that have suffered childhood trauma,” she said. “When they’re playing with Legos, sometimes they really open up.”
When people give to CASA, Gershun said, it’s usually their time or their money. The Gould Charitable Foundation and The Giving Brick have given both. For one meeting, Erin and Matthew Gould even brought lunch for CASA’s staff of 10 social workers and five attorneys.
“No one’s ever done that,” Gershun said. “This is just one of the most amazing gifts anyone’s ever given us.”