Architects turn work into play(houses)

By Rosanne Lewis

Parade of Playhouses, the signature event for Dallas Court Appointed Special Advocates (Dallas CASA), will be open at NorthPark Center July 15-31.

The Mavericks’ Mascot Headquarters was a huge hit during last year’s Parade of Playhouses.
Photos courtesy of Dallas CASA

The 27th annual fundraising and awareness event, presented this year by Crest Cadillac / Crest INFINITI / Crest Volvo, features custom designed and built children’s playhouses on display and available to win by raffle. All proceeds from the event benefit children who have experienced abuse or neglect.

Every year, more than 20,000 Dallas County children are reported abused or neglected. Child Protective Services (CPS) investigates these reports and determines when a child must be removed from home because it is not safe. 

Many children who enter foster care are separated from siblings and are overwhelmed by the uncertainty of whether they will return home, what school they will attend and how long they will remain in one place before being moved yet again.

Dallas CASA’s 1,500 volunteer child advocates step into the in-between space. They advocate for the best interests of children, including their emotional, educational and medical needs. Child advocates work closely with all parties on a case, including families, lawyers, judges, placement providers and CPS. Dallas CASA’s volunteers advocate for safe, permanent and loving homes so children can return to simply being children.

“For so many of us, childhood memories are happy ones full of imagination, exploring, learning and loving families,” said Dallas CASA’s President and CEO Kathleen M. LaValle. “But for too many Dallas children, childhood is a time of fear and uncertainty. Dallas CASA wants to restore childhood for these children. We want every child to have a happy childhood and to grow up to reach his or her full potential.”

This POP playhouse from 2021 is by Kimley-Horn and Balfour Beatty. This year’s Parade of Playhouses run from July 15-31 at NorthPark Center in Dallas.

This year’s collection of 12 playhouses includes a lighthouse, a windmill, a spaceship, a fish tank and more. A group of students from Highland Park High School designed a house, and the Dallas Mavericks designed another. The playhouses include fun details like slides, climbing walls and a basketball hoop, and builders get creative with materials that will stand up to being outdoors. Local architects, builders and organizations design and build each of the fanciful creations, with many builders returning year after year.

Residential homebuilder Les Owens of LRO Residential has built 13 houses for Parade of Playhouses. The first playhouse he built was the year his oldest child turned one, and he is hopeful to keep going until his youngest — now eight — turns 18. His playhouses are typically built on the site of one of his homes under construction, and all his contractors from framers to electricians work on it.

“At this point, building a house is just a tradition for us. Everyone who works on the playhouses and my family look forward to building one each year and then going to see it on display in NorthPark Center,” Owens said. “POP is a great event, and helping Dallas CASA and the children they serve is good for all our community.”

Tickets are sold online or in person at NorthPark Center. They are $5 each or five for $20.