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Special Education Director, Dr. Susan Zinkil, (left) and Jerome Villarreal, president of Knights of Columbus Council 10232 in Madison, (right of poster) with other members of the Knights of Columbus, display a poster promoting the run. The Knights of Columbus will host their Tootsie Roll 5K run on Nov. 6 to benefit the special education programs at Madison City Schools.

Tootsie Roll 5K will benefit an extra sweet cause – special education

By JOHN PECK, Madison City Schools

MADISON – When runners take off in the Tootsie Roll 5K in Madison next month, they will be doing so for a special cause. What makes this annual candy-themed run extra sweet is that it benefits special education programs in Madison City Schools.

Support for special education in Madison continues to grow, thanks to generous support from donors like Knights of Columbus and unwavering commitment from MCS and the community to help students with disabilities achieve to the best of their abilities.

“There is an old African proverb that it takes a village to raise a child. I believe it also takes a village to educate our children as well. A great educational system, like Madison City Schools, is stronger and educates our students better because of our partnerships and support from our community. The Knights of Columbus is a great example of that support,” offered Special Education Director, Dr. Susan Zinkil.

Prime race sponsor KOC has been a longtime supporter of the Special Education Department in Madison City Schools. The run became the primary SPED fundraiser when traditional Tootsie Roll campaigns at area storefronts began disappearing due to COVID and other concerns.

“This has been part of the national campaign of Knights of Columbus for over 50 years. We have done it in Madison for 30 years,” said Jerome Villarreal, president of Knights of Columbus Council 10232 in Madison. KOC chapters from St. John the Baptist Catholic Church (#10232) in Madison and Council #17519 from Most Merciful Jesus Catholic Church are jointly putting on the Tootsie Roll 5K.

The run is Nov. 6 and will start and end at Madison City Stadium. Villarreal said Knights of Columbus has always been a strong supporter of programs for those with intellectual disabilities. “Special Education is in keeping with KOC’s pillars to support causes related to Life, Community, Faith and Family, to celebrate the worth and dignity of every human being,” he said.

For Tootsie Roll Run information, stop by any Fleet Feet location in Huntsville or Madison or visit the following website: https://runsignup.com/Race/AL/Madison/KofCTootsieRoll5K.

The Special Education Department at Madison City Schools provides services for more than 1,400 students with disabilities. SPED services are provided to students with disabilities ages 3 – 21 or until they earn a high school diploma. Students who receive SPED services range from ones with more common disabilities such as speech impairments, learning disabilities, autism, intellectual disabilities, and emotional handicaps, to those with lower incidences of disabilities such as hearing or visually impaired students and those with orthopedic or physical impairments.

The services schools provide include education and access to education so that they can receive a Free and Appropriate Public Education. For example, students may have physical therapy or orientation or mobility support at school. Providing special education is an unfunded mandate; meaning that it is much more costly to provide special education services to our 1,400 students than what the federal and state funds provide us. That is why we rely so heavily on our community partnerships.

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