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'One good person'

by BILL BULEY
Hagadone News Network | October 30, 2022 1:09 AM

COEUR d'ALENE — Growing up, life was not kind to Diana Chavez.

Shortly after being born, she was sent to live with an aunt. When she was about 5 years old, she returned to live with her biological father. Not long afterward, she began a cycle of moving in and out of foster homes. She battled homelessness. Endured abuse. Lived with different people in different homes in different states.

But hope was a constant.

At age 14, she went to live with the Chavez family of Post Falls. And in March 2021, she was adopted.

Today, at 18, she is part of a large, blended family. It's chaotic and noisy and even crazy, but it's also a home of joy and love.

Being part of it is a dream come true for Diana.

"A lot better than it was when I was growing up," she said, smiling.

Thursday night, with her adoptive mother, Cassie Chavez, on one side, and her adoption case worker, Terassa Ruiz, on the other, Diana was the keynote speaker at North Idaho CASA's annual fundraiser, "CASA Uncorked," at the Hagadone Events Center.

About 220 people attended the event that raised a record $145,000.

Diana shared her story, but wanted to be clear she didn't want the spotlight on her - but on those who need help, and those who can provide it.

"For a lot of kids in care, it can seem really hard, but there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel," Diana said.

CASA helps them find it.

The nonprofit supports trained advocates for about 335 child abuse and neglect victims in North Idaho. Those advocates investigate child protection cases, represent the child's best interest in court and ​help find them a safe home with a forever family.

Melisa McTaggert, CASA board president, said they're there for youth who have faced a tough life, haven't had anyone stand up for them and could use a break.

"It's important someone is there for them," she said.

CASA was instrumental in arranging for Diana to tell her story in front of a judge and plea that she be allowed to be adopted, rather than returned to her biological father.

The judge listened and Diana became a member of the Chavez household.

Cassie Chavez said the CASA advocate was a "big blessing."

"They're very much a voice for the child, and the child only,” she said. "That's why it's such a great program."

The Chavez home has six kids.

"We’re definitely not that poster family,” Cassie Chavez said, laughing.

She said they love Diana and described her as "spunky and funny."

Despite past struggles, Diana "strives to see the good in everything," Cassie Chavez said.

"What you see is what you get," she continued. "She is what she says she is. She says what she’s thinking. She’s got an amazing heart. She's a phenomenal young woman."

Diana has three younger siblings and often filled the role of mom. She learned early the value of having someone older to look after you, and what that means growing up.

She said her goals include being a social worker and using her experience to help other youth.

When asked if there was one main message she hoped to deliver, it was this:

"We just need more good people out there, I guess," she said.

Diana paused, and then added: "One good person in a kid’s life can make a huge difference."

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BILL BULEY/Press

Diana Chavez was the keynote speaker at the "CASA Uncorked" annual fundraiser at the Hagadone Events Center on Thursday.

photo

Diana Chavez talks with her adoptive mother Cassie Chavez, right, and adoption worker, Terassa Ruiz, left, during "CASA Uncorked" annual fundraiser at the Hagadone Events Center on Thursday.

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