The 16th Annual Festival of Chairs opened online bidding for the silent auction benefiting the Children’s Advocacy Alliance on Thursday.

The Festival of Chairs auctions off refurbished chairs to raise money for the Children’s Advocacy Alliance, a partnership between the Court Appointed Special Advocates of the 20th Judicial District and the Central Arkansas Children’s Advocacy Center.

The walls of the advocacy center are lined with colored leaves that represent each of the more than 1,600 children who have received services at the building. Just as each of these leaves represents the children that come into the advocacy center, the chairs also represent them, CAA Development Coordinator Autumn Kissire said.

"The chairs are symbolic of the children we serve," she said Thursday, noting many of the children are damaged and are at a loss of hope when they enter the center. "After, they are works of art and love that can have their path in healing."

Children’s Advocacy Alliance is an independent nonprofit that serves Faulkner, Van Buren, Searcy, Pope and Conway counties and was founded in 2000.

Children’s Advocacy Alliance oversees the Central Arkansas Children’s Advocacy Center and the CASA 20th Judicial District program. These two programs work together to provide coordinated guidance, treatment and support for child victims of abuse and neglect.

CASA representatives are volunteers from within the community who are trained to advocate on behalf of children in need.

"They’re community members who are trained and are actually sworn in by the judge to be an officer of the court," Kissire said. "They go to court and advocate and testify on behalf of the child."

The CAC, located at 574 Locust St. in Conway, provides a central location for children to open up about traumatic events.

"The family will come in with a child and then we’ll have a forensic interview with the child, a medical exam, if needed, and therapy here on site," Kissire said. "It’s one central stop and reduces trauma from the child having to retell their traumatic story."

All funds raised during the Festival of Chairs goes back to the center and the children it serves.

Many local artists of all ages get involved in turning old, worn-out chairs into works of art to auction off during the event.

One of the pieces to be auctioned off during the 16th Annual Festival of Chairs is a Harry Potter-themed chair. The chair was created by 12-year-old Connor Olson.

Kissire said Olson’s mother is an attorney and that he has heard of the good the center does for children.

He wanted to help the center raise money, and designed a chair to be auctioned off.

"I really like Harry Potter," he said. "In the books, the children fight to make their world better for each other. I wanted to make a chair to get money to help make the world better for other kids."

While online bidding opened Thursday, the event itself will be held at 6 p.m. Oct. 19 at the University of Central Arkansas’ Health, Physical Education and Recreation (HPER) Center.

Among the items auctioned off is a raffle for a diamond ring donated by Fletcher Smith’s Jeweler’s. The ring is worth several thousand dollars, Kissire said, and tickets can be purchased for $50 each. Only 300 raffle tickets will be sold.