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Casey Lara: “My life is proof that anything is possible!”

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From being a small-town girl whose odds were stacked high against her to training as a future Olympian, Casey Lara has come full circle, returning to her hometown to make her dreams a reality. 

Growing up in Lockeford, Casey’s home life was full of chaos and instability. Her first stay at Mary Graham Hall Children’s Shelter in Stockton was at six months of age. Fighting addiction and continual bad choices, her parents would make efforts to stay on the right path, gain custody of Casey and her three siblings, only to lose custody, so Casey would find herself and her siblings in and out of foster care for most of her younger years. “I don’t want people to feel sorry for me,” shared Casey. “I talk about my childhood and share my experience as proof that anything is possible! I don’t want people to quit.” she explained. 

Transforming A Rough Road
By the time this young girl was in sixth grade, her mom had left and her dad was sent to prison. Casey’s aunt, who was only 24 years old at the time and raising four children of her own, took on the responsibility of Casey and her siblings. Throughout high school, Casey was expelled and suspended for fighting. Then, shortly after her 16th birthday, she had an epiphany. “I knew deep down that if I didn’t change my life and take responsibility for my actions, I would end up just like my parents,” confessed Casey. In support of a friend, Casey found herself walking over to a military recruiting event at school. In the blink of an eye, Casey found a way out. She signed a delayed entry program and was stationed in England at 18 years old.

After spending four years with the Air Force, Casey’s last station was in Arizona. She attended University of Phoenix and graduated with her bachelor’s degree in human services. Casey’s time in the military gave her the confidence and discipline she had been seeking for a lifetime. “I think the military helped me realize how big the world is. I learned how things can seem difficult or even like they will never get better, but they will and sometimes the problems we have are very insignificant in comparison to what is going on in the world. Meeting and working with people from different backgrounds and lifestyles was a skill in itself, so to speak,” conveyed Casey. 

Building a Team
During her time in Arizona, Casey began to dream about starting her own nonprofit someday. She knew she wanted to work with at-risk youth; she just didn’t know how. “I overheard some girls at work talking about roller derby,” smiled Casey. “I quickly asked questions and showed up at practice.” Finding a full-contact sport like roller derby was a positive outlet for Casey to release her feelings of aggression. “I felt empowered being around other women from all different backgrounds. We were a team and we supported one another like a family,” Casey reflected. 

With her passion for roller derby growing, Casey made the decision when she was 25 to move back to her home town of Lockeford. She wanted to be closer to her brother, Greg, and her hometown was where she had truly wanted to start the nonprofit she had been dreaming of. Her desire to help children in the community and her love of roller derby gave her the idea of starting her own local team. The Lockeford Liberators and The Little Rascals started small; Casey’s two young nieces and four adult friends began skating at Lockeford School in October 2016. In just a couple of months, seven kids had joined the team and two more adults laced up skates alongside them. 

Rolling to Success
While her nonprofit was growing, Casey never stopped skating herself. She continued to compete and develop her skills as a roller derby skater. She skated with the local Stockton team, Port City, for three years and competed at Nationals in 2014. She then joined the California Mayhem team in 2016 for another trip to compete at Nationals. The popularity of roller derby was growing and Casey made the decision to try out for the Olympic team. “I was hesitant, but I knew anything was possible,” remarked Casey. Tryouts took place in California, Maryland and Colorado, where 30 women would be selected for the next round of tryouts until 20 skaters were selected for the team. Casey was chosen from the group of 200 women to skate with Team USA. She found herself on a flight to Chicago, where the newly established team would practice over the next three days in preparation for World Championships in Barcelona. 

Team USA dominated in Worlds, beating out Australia for the gold medal. At that time, the Olympic Committee made the decision to delay adding Roller Derby to the 2020 lineup because of the dominating skill level from Team USA. Casey and some of her teammates decided to help other teams while competing at Worlds. “This sport is more than skating; it is about building a community, a family. We wanted to help other countries so the sport we love would in turn continue to grow!” she noted. 

Changing Lives
Back home, Casey continues to share her passion with anyone who shows interest. She leads by example and teaches her team the importance of being respectful, being on time, dressing for success and leaving attitudes behind. She encourages her team to be involved in the community, and they help with fundraising for the Lockeford and Clements Fire Departments. The team hosts a spaghetti dinner annually during which Casey teaches her Junior team members how to talk with people and thank them personally for their support. The cost to join the Lockeford Liberators is $25 and $15 for the Little Rascals, but Casey encourages anyone who is interested to come out and join them. “If you show up and show interest, we will find a pair of skates for you,” smiled Casey. 

Casey Lara is truly an example of the words she preaches: “Anything is possible!” and “Be the change you wish to see in the world!” Overcoming the challenges from her young childhood experiences, she found a passion that helped her become an inspiration to so many. As she continues to share her passion with underprivileged and at-risk youth, she is making a difference in our community one pair of skates at a time.

For more information on the Lockeford Liberators or the Little Rascals, please visit the Facebook page, Lockeford Liberators & The Little Rascals Roller Derby, or email caseyglara@gmail.com.