(WHTM) — abc27’s last finalist for our annual Remarkable Women Contest made a dream come true by volunteering her time and expertise to save young lives.

“When I began my practice in Harrisburg, I wanted to do legal service work. There was not an opening in Harrisburg for that at the time, so I began to go to all the charities, the YWCA, Mid Penn Legal Services to see what I could do, even on a pro-bono basis,” said attorney Lori Serratelli.

Serratelli was focused on serving those at risk.

“They had something called the women’s center back then. It was a hotline for abused women and I really began focusing my charity work on abused women and children.” she said.

She did that all while running a law firm and overseeing horrific cases.

“I handled cases where parents had been murdered. Father-murdering mother representing the grandparents to either adopt or go for custody,” Serratelli said.

Serratelli wanted to find a way to help children in Dauphin County’s child welfare system.

“I started to hear and learn about something called CASA, which stands for court appointed special advocates,” she added.

Those advocates speak on behalf of abused and neglected children navigating the foster care system. Nearby counties had CASA programs, but not Dauphin County.

“I had the dream beginning after a health experience, I survived breast cancer, which the treatment caused some heart disease, so there’s a lot of health that was going on, issues I had to battle. And around 2009 I felt this was my second chance in life to do something to help Dauphin County, help the children coming in front of the Dauphin County court,” Serratelli added.

It took a few years start the program, and Serratelli became a CASA herself.

“That took about two years. But what really helped, I was honored with an appointment on the court by Governor Wolf, unanimous consent of the Senate, and I was placed in the family law division. To begin a CASA program. You need the permission of the president judge. At that time, it was Judge Lewis, and he was ready and willing to have me start,” she said.

And after some legal steps…

“I was finally able to put together a steering committee in 2019. We applied for our IRS, nonprofit tax-exempt status, formed a board, started raising money. The hard part of a nonprofit,” said Serratelli.

Get the latest Pennsylvania politics and election news with abc27 newsletters!

But now the staff of three and 16 volunteers are making a difference in young lives.

“They are embraced, and I think appreciated by the court for what they’re doing. They write reports for the judge. Every few months, there are review proceedings on the child’s case.”

For Serratelli, the cancer survivor and mom of two sons, whose husband, Steve Schiffman, is also an lawyer.

“To be nominated for something like this, it means everything. It’s so important that the community know about CASA and understand what we do,” Serratelli said.

Serratelli hopes others will consider becoming a CASA to ensure children in the child welfare system have someone to advocate for them as they go through a tough time in their lives.

On Wednesday, March 29, abc27 will reveal who our remarkable women winner is on Good Day PA, which starts at 10 a.m.