A voice for every child: Mom Always Says Event Recap

by | Jun 14, 2024 | News

From Guest Authors Lisa McNeilley and Ingrid Fournier


A few years ago, we put on a storytelling event about motherhood. Guests gathered at a local restaurant where storytellers shared fantastic stories about all the different aspects of being a mother or having a mother. Everyone who attended felt enriched and entertained. Plans were put into place for the next year.

Then COVID hit and we had to cancel.

Third time’s the charm

The event was revived this year, and Fountain Street Church agreed not only to provide the location, but to underwrite the event. We wanted to celebrate Mother’s Day with inspiring stories and make an impact by raising funds for a nonprofit in our community. When we began discussing whom we would like to partner with, we were drawn to Court Appointed Special Advocates of Kent County. Both of us had previous connections to CASA and were touched by the powerful impact CASA has on children.

Mom Always Says gave people a place to share their stories. And that is what CASA does too. It gives children a chance to tell their stories so that, ultimately, someone can advocate for them. Someone can help them amplify their voices. Someone can tell their story.

Sharing stories

Michigan Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks graciously stepped forward to welcome guests and kick off the event. Linda Nemec Foster, our keynote speaker, wove together her stunning poetry with stories of her mother and their troubled relationship. Sean Duffie performed two spoken word poems in tribute to his mother–and after hearing them, we all wanted to be her friend. Penni Weninger talked about her mother’s foray into the spiritual world and how, even in her doubt, Penni found a way to connect with her mother. Kerrie Deboer described taking her son to jail and the ways kids will be themselves and eventually find their way. Justine Hooper took us on a spiritual quest to find the roots of conflict and resolution in motherhood. Rachel Cain inspired us with her story of women on a cancer ward who stepped up when her mother could not. Co-director Lisa McNeilley shared how her mother’s worrying filtered into her own parenting and how both were subdued with a sense of humor and with love. Co-director Ingrid Fournier made us laugh as we experienced with her the discovery that her mother might not have been perfect.

Mom Always Says was about motherhood–honest, difficult, sad, and funny stories that shared the complicated journey of what it means to be or have a mom. Each storyteller stepped up to the microphone and made us laugh, think, maybe even cry. It felt like we were forming a community, the same kind of community that Executive Director Stephanie Sheler described when she advocated for the work of CASA.

Moving forward

Look for Mom Always Says next year. Supporters of CASA are welcome as storytellers and guests. We’ll have auditions for storytellers in January and the event will be in May.

Updates will be posted at:



This story is featured in the Summer 2024 edition of CASA Connect, CASA of Kent County’s quarterly newsletter. Click here to view a pdf version of this newsletter.


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