DECATUR – After generating 30 different playhouses over the past 11 years, you'd think the folks behind the annual CASAs for CASA raffle would have trouble coming up with something fresh.
Not so, as this year's title sponsor Stratas Foods is the inspiration for a food truck playhouse designed to appeal to boys and girls.
“I'm sure the kids would enjoy something like that, so it's a pretty neat deal,” said Jason Smith, manager of the Stratas plant in Decatur. “We're pretty excited to be part of this.”
This is also the second year volunteers and staff with the Macon County Court Appointed Special Advocates program plans to get the two playhouses to Hickory Point Mall in time to take advantage of the Easter bunny's presence.
They're shooting for a St. Patrick's Day arrival instead of waiting closer to April 1, the start of Child Abuse Awareness Month, which is central to the program's mission of representing the best interests of abused and neglected children in court.
This year Easter falls on March 27.
After building a beach playhouse for the special advocates last year, remodeling contractors Doug Davidson and Brian Crafton were tasked with creating a food truck from a drawing of one designed by St. Louis architect Patrick Ladendecker for another CASAs for CASA event two years ago.
“They said, 'No plans? No problem,'” said Pam Burkhart, executive director of the Macon County program. “It's exciting to see what they came up with.”
KLH Construction also volunteered to build a playhouse for the second consecutive year, this year completing a Victorian home after constructing a log cabin in 2015.
Painting the Victorian was the men's group at St. Paul's Lutheran Church, also helping out for the second year in a row.
The project manager is Ted Paine, a retired Macon County Circuit Court judge, who assisted with construction and also with the painting and decorating that came later.
Cristene Dugan, chairwoman of this year's CASAs for CASA Committee, said she hopes the raffle does at least as well as last year's, which raised about $40,000.
Other event sponsors besides Stratas include Brinkoetter & Associates, Caterpillar Inc., Cromwell Group, First Mid-Illinois Bank & Trust, Lowe's, Miller Wealth Management, Neuhoff Media, Prairieland Towing, Thrivent Financial and Trump Direct.
Davidson estimated that he and Crafton invested about 28 hours in building the food truck playhouse. “That's counting the head-scratching time,” Crafton said.
They said the biggest challenge was keeping all three dimensions from exceeding 8 feet while still giving children plenty of details to play with.
The finished playhouse will feature a steering wheel that turns, faux stove top and stainless steel sink, an awning and a food counter inside and out.