The Charismatic & Passionate Activist Kerri Kasem

Kerri Kasem has it all: tenacity, compassion and personality. For over 23 years, Kerri has been sharing her wit and natural eloquence through numerous radio and TV programs including, UFC, Sixx Sense and The Side Show Countdown With Nikki Sixx, among others.

She is the daughter of Casey Kasem, a legendary radio host known for the “American Top 40” and being the first to voice the beloved character “Shaggy” in Scooby-Doo. The son of Lebanese immigrants, Casey was also an activist for Arab-American issues, animal rights and environmental causes. Not only did Kerri follow her fathers footsteps as a celebrated radio and tv host, she became an activist of fundamental causes as well.

In 2007, Casey was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and later with Lewy body dementia. When his health took a turn for the worse, his second wife–Kerri’s stepmother–blocked family and friends from contacting him. When Kerri and her two siblings, Mike and Julie, were barred from seeing their ailing father, they appealed and protested, but the California law at the time provided spouses all rights relating to the care of a loved one. 

“If this bill had been in place, my dad would still be alive today.” 

This powerful sentiment delivered by Kerri to lawmakers is one of many testimonies she has given over the years in her unrelenting fight against elder abuse. From this, she has become one of the most prominent advocates for this cause.

“No child deserves to go through what I’m going through,” Kerri declared to the press. “No loving parent deserves to be left alone to die with nobody by their side. I’m going to do something about this, I’m going to change the law.” 

After a prolonged legal battle, Kerri and her siblings won visitation rights, and in 2014 Kerri was granted conservatorship of her father by a judge. Tragically, Casey’s condition had badly deteriorated by then and he died shortly after. 

Determined to prevent this from happening to others, Kerri and her two siblings introduced a bill that gave adults the right to visit and communicate with whomever they pleased. In 2015, AB 1085 was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, and the Kasem Cares “Visitation Bill” has since passed in 11 other states. The measure stands as a watershed moment in the legal protection of elders. Kerri also established Kasem Cares and the Kasem Coalition, which help raise awareness about the neglect, isolation and abuse of elders by spouses and caretakers. While Kerri admits the topic is not a sexy issue in the public sphere, she is passionate about creating a culture where the elderly are not cast aside but honored and protected. She shares, “We’re all going to get old. I want to live in a society where the elderly are revered, not thrown away.”

THE KASEM CARES VISITATION BILL

Kerri Kasem: The Kasem Cares Visitation Bill allows a judge to rule that you can see a loved one who has been put in isolation by a caretaker or guardian. It doesn’t matter if that caretaker is uncooperative or if they’re your family. 

This bill addresses that isolation and other forms of elder abuse, because when a person is isolated, they can be taken advantage of. This is a republic, we have the power as the people to change things.

It was not a choice of whether or not I could see my dad again. I was going to do everything I could to see my dad. There was no job, no amount of money, fear or lies my stepmother told that could stop me from fighting to see my dad again. I was told by my first two lawyers that I would never win guardianship against a wife of 34 years. My family was terrified. I quit my job. I lived with tons of roommates. I worked on the weekends. I was in Sacramento trying to change the law. I decided if I wasn’t going to win in court, I was going to change the law in California. There was never a moment where I thought I shouldn’t do it. If he died and I didn’t try everything, I would have regretted it for the rest of my life.

REACH  OF THE NEW LAW

Kerri Kasem: I’m still on that journey. I need to get it passed in all 50 states. We reached 12 states with 13 bills in them. Nine states have adopted a variation of the Kasem Cares Visitation Bill. We give people living in the states the bill and show them step-by-step how to talk to representatives, senators or delegates.

We can help you. If there’s anybody experiencing this, and your state doesn’t have the Kasem Cares Visitation Bill, we can come in and support you.

PROTECTING OUR ELDERS

Kerri Kasem: My dad always fought for the underdog. Growing up, we learned that you fight for your beliefs. We’re all going to get old. I want to live in a society where the elderly are revered, not thrown away. In the United States, the elderly are overmedicated and financially, emotionally, physically and sexually abused. We have to change the laws to protect our elders.

THE FIGHT FOR CHANGE

Kerri Kasem: Donate if you can. I spend a lot of my own money. Donate your time. Testify when we have the bill in your city. If you write to me at KasemCares.org, I can let you know what we need. We have information about the Kasem Cares Bill and what you can do if you’re being kept from your loved ones.

LOVE FOR HORSES

Kerri Kasem: Horses were my first love. My mom put me on my first horse when I was three.  But when I saw The Black Stallion, it transported me to another world. I wanted to be that that boy on the beach with his horse. My father took me to see it every week until it was gone from the theaters. That movie stuck with me throughout my entire life! 


So, for my 49th birthday I went to Morocco and I recreated the beach scene. I rode with no reins or saddle, just like the movie.  I let go, arms in the air, flying down the beach — total freedom! It was a seminal moment in my life — I actually cried after that ride. It was just for me — I never expected the video to go viral. It turned out to be one of the most watched Instagram videos of 2021!

Interview by Ruby McAuliffe

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