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The Missouri Knights of Columbus Annual Tootsie Roll Drive

The Knights of Columbus Missouri State Council announced a challenge to raise $1 million toward the development of a Special Olympics Missouri building project that will create the first-ever statewide athletic training campus designed especially for individuals with intellectual disabilities. The announcement came during a SOMO Champions luncheon at the Lodge of Four Seasons in Lake Ozark, Mo.

Special Olympics Missouri and the Knights of Columbus Missouri State Council have been partners for more than two decades. The Knights of Columbus have contributed significant financial and volunteer support to help individuals with intellectual disabilities through programs such as “Contest for Concern” and their annual Tootsie Roll drive.

Councils across the state will participate in raising the funds through new and existing revenue streams. One new avenue is through a partnership with Bob Evans restaurants. Beginning in July, on the second Thursday of each month, all 22 restaurants in Missouri will donate 15% of their sales all day to the Knights of Columbus Charities just by mentioning them. The Councils will also enhance their existing Tootsie Roll drive, which takes place each fall.

The $1 million in fundraising will bring the total amount pledged for Special Olympics Missouri’s planned Training for Life Campus to $4.3M. The 44,000 sq. ft. facility will be set in mid-Missouri and will host year-round training opportunities, health screenings and athletic competitions for its more than 17,000 athletes plus their coaches and volunteers from throughout the state.

“The endorsement and major investment by the Knights of Columbus for this initiative demonstrates the significant impression Special Olympics continues to have on Missouri citizens,” said Mark Musso, President and CEO of Special Olympics Missouri. “The Knights of Columbus are taking their role as partners with Special Olympics to the next level by supporting our efforts to create a dedicated campus for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.”

The Training for Life Campus will serve current and future generations of individuals with intellectual disabilities, and will be the largest such facility in scope in the United States. For more than 40 years, Special Olympics Missouri athletes, coaches and volunteers have not had their own place to train, compete and learn through the transformative power of sports.

“We are working diligently to plan the Training for Life Campus for the benefit of our athletes, coaches and volunteers,” says Gary Wilbers, Co-Chair of the Training for Life Campus capital campaign. “This vote of confidence from the Knights of Columbus Missouri State Council will help us keep the momentum we need to reach our goal of building a transformative place that will impact all of Missouri.”

Tax credits awarded by the MDFB will help toward the $12.5 million project. Special Olympics Missouri has earned the highest ratings from charity ratings services such as the Charity Navigator Four-Star rating and BBB A+ Charity Accreditation. The organization was also inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2013.

About the Training for Life Campus:

At the Training for Life Campus, Special Olympics Missouri will be able to expand important programs, such as its Young Athletes program for children ages 3-7 with intellectual disabilities, and Healthy Athletes®, an innovative program of free health screenings for older children and adults.

The campus is designed to accommodate training, practice and competitive events for some of SOMO’s most popular sports programs, including a track, tennis courts, softball field, wellness trail, soccer field, and multi-sport training areas. Indoor gymnasium and fitness facilities, as well as training and learning areas, will provide athletes and coaches with modern, accessible sporting facilities.

About Special Olympics Missouri:

Special Olympics Missouri is a year-round program of sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. More than 17,000 athletes participate in 21 Olympic-type sports throughout the state.  Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, and experience joy as they participate in the sharing of gifts and friendship with their fellow athletes, their family and friends, and communities across Missouri.

Special Olympics Missouri is proud of our financial health, returning 90 percent of every dollar back to program services. We are privileged to be recognized with these honors: Better Business Bureau A+ Charity Accreditation, Charity Navigator 4-star rating and an inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame – Class of 2013.

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About the Knights of Columbus:

The Knights of Columbus was formed to render financial aid to members and their families. Mutual aid and assistance are offered to sick, disabled and needy members and their families. Social and intellectual fellowship is promoted among members and their families through educational, charitable, religious, social welfare, war relief and public relief works. Learn more about the Knights of Columbus Missouri State Council at