HUNTSVILLE – CASA of Walker, San Jacinto & Trinity Counties’ Parade of Playhouses is fast approaching, with the chance to win a playhouse that holds a special place in the hearts of local families.
In their fifth year of participation, Superior Homes Custom this year dedicated the CASA playhouse in memory of Amanda Vogel, the wife of their longtime friend and contractor, Derek Vogel.
“It’s very special, my daughter and I are very honored to have them do that for us,” said Derek. “Yesterday it was four months that we lost her, it feels like four years, but I am still a little lost.”
Amanda recently died of uveal melanoma, a rare cancer of the eye that involves the iris, ciliary body or choroid. Due to the size of her tumor, her eye was removed in 2015, which helped cure the disease. However, the cancer resurfaced in 2020 and had spread to her liver.
“She was a fighter,” Derek recalls. “She fought hard, but she succumbed to it on July 18 of this year.”
Amanda is remembered for her loving personality, her kind nature, because she is sweet and selfless. A wife, mother, grandmother and educator, she impacted the lives of children with special needs in the Magnolia School District for over 20 years.
“She really cared about those kids and it showed,” Derek said, pointing out that while she’s always been philanthropic regardless of the cause, helping children always had a special place in her heart.
“When Dean and I talked about making the playhouse this year, I truly believed that God put it on our hearts and Amanda just came to mind,” said Cheryl Hall, co-owner of Superior Homes Custom. “Especially because CASA helps children and that’s what we’re doing the playhouse for, it just seemed natural for us to do it in her memory, so that’s where we came up with Amanda’s Christmas Cottage.”
The outside of the playhouse was painted blue to reflect Amanda’s favorite color, as well as the striking color of her eyes. A bright white trim accentuates the large doorway and five windows, while a charcoal roof and full electrical wiring provide a practical element that allows the winning family to use the playhouse after their children have outgrown it.
The inside is finished with a desk and books to stay true to Amanda’s passion for education.
Cheryl estimates that the playhouse cost about $12,000 to $15,000 to build, then be raffled off to a happy family for just $25 a ticket to charity.
“We’re so excited to be working with CASA again and then doing it double, we’re doing this to help kids and that’s what Amanda has been doing all her life here on Earth,” Cheryl said.
CASA of Walker, San Jacinto & Trinity Counties is a national, nonprofit volunteer movement dating back to 1977 that provides court-appointed volunteer attorneys to abused and neglected children under the care of Children’s Protective Services. All proceeds from the raffle will go toward additional grants and funding from Texas CASA to support the attorney program, staff to support volunteer attorneys, and training.
“I think about kids who are in bad situations or circumstances sometimes we think they’re just somewhere else, but they’re all around us,” Cheryl said. “Knowing the people who work there who give up their time, that they really love children and that they want the best for them makes it so easy to be a part of them. You know the funds are going to help these kids who don’t have a voice.”
The experience of building each playhouse has always been special to the family and crews helping to make the vision come true, knowing that the playhouses help children in the community directly. However, the feeling only gets bigger this year as they create a special piece in memory of their friend.
“She’d be honored, and just knowing it’s going to a good cause would make her day,” Derek said. “It was all about the kids with her, so she would be very moved. She wouldn’t want the recognition, she wasn’t that kind of person, she was always worried about everyone.”
Amanda’s Christmas Cottage will be available for viewing in the coming days at Prosperity Bank, located at 2033 11th Street in Huntsville. It will then make its way through Downtown Huntsville in the Lions Club Christmas Parade on December 4 from 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm, before the raffle via Facebook Live on December 15 at noon.
Tickets can be purchased at the CASA of Walker, San Jacinto & Trinity Counties offices, located at 1300 11th Street, Suite No. 310, at lottery sponsor Weisner of Huntsville, located at 230 I-45, or at presenting sponsor Walker County Federal Credit Union, located at 1802 Normal Park Dr. Tickets can also be purchased through Venmo @casawst.