CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of the Eastern Panhandle staff and volunteers have taken their organizational efforts to a new level — both literally and philosophically.

A recent fundraising excursion to Ice Mountain was the premier event of what’s being called “Adventures Supporting CASA,” said executive director Michelle Sudduth.

The Ice Mountain Preserve, which is located in Hampshire County, W.Va., and owned by The Nature Conservancy, has been nicknamed nature’s icebox due to ice vents in boulders at its base that release cool air year-round.

Approximately 20 people made the trip to Hampshire County, and it was an “amazing off-the-beaten-path outing,” she said.

“This was the first outing in a series of planned special organized events to build community and support for CASA,” she said.

As envisioned, the new initiative will utilize “unique West Virginia experiences to build community and support the most vulnerable children in Berkeley, Morgan and Jefferson counties,” she said.

It will be both a “new friend- and funding-raising initiative,” she said.

Volunteers are increasingly important and needed because of the growing number of children who need this type of advocacy assistance, she said.

Youngster needs definitely outnumber available resources, she said.

“We are serving 196 children, but over 600 children are before the courts, through no fault of their own, and are part of a seriously overburdened child welfare system,” she said.

“CASA needs volunteers to ensure that our most vulnerable children who have experienced abuse or neglect have a highly trained and engaged advocate to speak up for their need for safety, permanency and the opportunity to thrive,” she said.

Tim Hott, board vice president and event organizer, said the outing was successful in many ways.

“The idea came about as Nov. 17 was National Take A Hike Day, and we wanted to try to incorporate this as one of our fundraisers,” he said.

“It was a cooler morning but beautiful day for a hike, and to see nature at its best,” he said.

Most of the hikers continued the hike up to the Ravens Rock overlook, he said.

Vincent Lombardi, a Capon Bridge resident and part owner of the eco-friendly Buffalo Gap Retreat, has been trained as a docent to lead visitors to the environmentally sensitive site.

This trip was special because it was a pleasure to work with the child advocacy volunteers, he said.

“Tim (Hott) had told me a lot about CASA and I think it is just an awesome organization that I’d eventually like to see come to Hampshire County, so I was happy to lead the hike that day for the Nature Conservancy,” he said.

“Meeting these CASA volunteers was proof that they are wonderful people and doing amazing work. They are facing a mind-boggling problem with staggering numbers of children in need, but they don’t give up,” he said.