WINNEMUCCA - Spring is a time of hope and new beginnings. But for nearly one million children abused and neglected every year in this country, their worlds remain dark and full of fear.

Imagine a little 4-year-old boy whose mother has left him. He has no home, no comfort, nothing to call his own. This little boy is then thrust into the court system, waiting for strangers to determine his fate.

And then imagine someone in the system describing this boy as hopeless. Just think of that - 4 years old and no future.

Fortunately for this little boy, a CASA volunteer was appointed as his advocate. This volunteer, like all CASA volunteers, holds dearly the belief that there are no hopeless children, only children who have yet to experience hope.

In the case of this little boy, the CASA volunteer stuck with him throughout the court proceedings. As a result, this child found a safe home with nurturing parents who will soon adopt him.

This is a story of a child's life literally being saved. And this is only one example of how CASA volunteers are giving thousands of abused and neglected children a second chance.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness month. Some might say this is an odd idea, selecting the first full month of spring to represent something as tragic as child abuse and neglect.

But when you think about it, April is a perfect choice. Spring is a time of new beginnings. And creating new beginnings for abused children - changing children's lives - is why we are here today.

Too many children live in fear: Fear of what their father or mother might do to them. The fear of being totally alone and neglected. And the fear they will never have a home they can call their own.

Every day, CASA volunteers help children replace their world of fear with one of hope. Our volunteers are everyday people just like you.

They are teachers, retirees, stockbrokers, construction workers and stay-at-home moms. The only special background or equipment you need is the heart to care for some of the most vulnerable children in our community, and the determination to do something about it.

As we approach this season of new beginnings, think about the story I just shared with you. A 4-year-old child labeled hopeless without being given a through the chance.

Through the work of a single caring individual, this child has a chance for a positive future. So when you think to yourself, "What can one person do?" In the case of an abused and neglected child, you can do more than you'll ever know.

If you've ever wanted to make a difference in a child's life, now is the time. A child is waiting and you have the power to help. Please consider becoming a CASA volunteer and bring hope back into a child's life.

For more information or for victim's services in Humboldt County, please contact AVA-CASA. All advocates are mandatory reporters and required by law to report any knowledge or reasonable cause that a minor is being abused or neglected.

This column is not is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or psychological advice or treatment.

The mission of AVA is to empower those victimized by abuse and/or violence through advocacy and crisis intervention and to raise awareness in the community about the cause, impact, and prevention of relationship abuse, sexual violence, child abuse and neglect, and bullying.

Tri-County CASA supports and promotes volunteer advocacy to protect the best interests of abuse and neglected children in Humboldt, Lander, and Pershing counties.