CASA Corner: Remembering volunteer Rob Ranieri
El Dorado County CASA
The headline read “Man killed in skydiving accident.”
Kerry, my husband, and I had just returned from our very early morning walk with our very big dog, Boris. We grabbed the paper on the way back into the house, fed the dog, and continued with our normal routine of getting breakfast while cruising the news through our two morning papers, the online news and the morning TV news shows. We like the news.
Everything changed that morning when I read the headline of the Tribune and then the story identifying Rob Ranieri as the man that was killed. The article shared the limited amount of information that they knew about the accident and his death. What the news did not know and could not possibly know was how Rob lived.
I do not know much about Rob’s everyday life, but I do know that he was a CASA volunteer and that says a great deal about this 28-year-old business owner, husband and father.
Rob called the CASA office about 3 1/2 years ago and told me that he would like to become a CASA volunteer. I invited him to come in and interview with me, as is the CASA protocol, so that we could get to know each other and I could ask him some questions about his intention and desire to become a volunteer. Rob came in a few days later and I liked him immediately. His then-girlfriend, later to become wife, had encouraged him and thought he would be a good CASA, he told me. We talked more about him and he shared that he had hit some rough spots as a teen and he felt that he could help other teen boys through some of their rough spots. As I listened to Rob talk about his family, his life, his goals and his intent to help, I knew that he would be a good advocate and a good friend to those who needed him in their lives.
CASA volunteers are members of a unique breed. They are selfless in their giving. There is no public adoration or pats on the back as you go in to visit and eat lunch or dinner in a small locked cell with a juvenile who is in the detention center. There is not an assistant setting up your meetings, dealing with the surprises that come with every CASA case. There is no paycheck or bonus for putting in extra hours when a child needs you. So, for a 25-year-old man to make the decision to help these teens was a statement about who Rob was in his heart.
Rob must have loved the risky parts of life and he was even willing to take this risk – the risk of putting his heart, time, energy and passion into being a Court Appointed Advocate – for a child. It is risky to start a new relationship with a child that has been hurt, abused, disappointed, abandoned or neglected. Every CASA hopes that their relationship with a child will help ensure that they will never have those losses or endure that pain again. In the end, sometimes all a CASA knows for certain is that it was better for them to have been in the child’s life.
Rob Ranieri, husband to Ashley, father to Willow, business owner, skydiver, kind, authentic, caring, CASA volunteer for 3 1/2 years is how he should be remembered. Rob made a difference in the lives of three children and was an active CASA to a great young man when he passed.
I am grateful that I had just seen Rob last week when he took time out of his day to join our family of CASA volunteers as we welcomed five new, wonderful CASAs into our South Lake Tahoe tribe. As we went around the room, we each introduced ourselves and told just a little about why we had decided to become CASAs. Rob, shy and reserved, smiled at the group of about 25 and said simply, “I just like to help kids.”
Rob, you did just that. We are all a little better because you chose to be in the lives of children who needed you, needed especially you. It is not the headline of how you died that will be remembered, it will be how you lived and whose lives you touched in your 28 years.