SIKESTON - Weekends are precious to most people. It's a time to catch up on household chores, run errands and accomplish everything else put off during the week.
But on Oct. 12, local and area residents have a chance to spend a few hours making a difference in the lives of special needs children by participating in the Kenny Rogers Children's Center Charity Walk.
Registration for the 29th annual event is at 9 a.m. at Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse, with the walk beginning at 10 a.m.
"This charity walk is our second major fundraiser, second only to the telethon," said Executive Director Chuck Martin. "It and the telethon literally cover our annual financial shortfall which we have because we provide our services at no direct cost to the families."
The walk has become an event Toni Tilley looks forward to every year. She has participated in it since she was in elementary school.
"I had a cousin that used to go to the Center and when I started working at Pullen Brothers I got involved and I've been a volunteer ever since. I was invited to their Christmas party last year and to see the expressions on these kids' faces just to get an apple, they're so appreciative. It's sad how much we take for granted. And when I saw how much money it takes to run the Center... Those kids and their families pay for nothing, it's all taken care of by people who participate in and support the events and make donations. Every cent that is raised for the Center really does stay right here."
Martin praised Tilley and her dedication to the Center, remarking that she is the perfect example of why everyone's help is needed.
"The fact is that whether it's $5, $50 or $500, we truly need all of the support that we can get," he said. "I think everybody is aware that our country is very much at an economic slow down and for our Center to be able to move forward we need to have the support of the community. Anybody who comes out makes a difference, believe me. If you get 100 people who walk and they each bring $5, we've raised $500.
"I just encourage anyone who is reading this to know that this Charity Walk will take very little of your time. Ask your friends, neighbors, co-workers to sponsor you for a set amount, collect their money in advance, you show up the day of the telethon, register, walk and eat lunch. We'll be finished with everything by around 12:30 p.m. at the latest and they have Saturday afternoon and all of Sunday still to enjoy."
Lunch will be provided by the Sikeston Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3174 at the post home.
Last year around $15,000 was made and this year's goal is $20,000 which will help pay salaries for the KRCC therapists, purchase new equipment and finance other needs of the youths.
"We need your help and I'm asking for it," Martin said. "I've said this over and over but it continues to be true. It is only through the generosity and support of people who care enough to make a difference that we're able to continue to do what we do. I hope that never sounds trite to the people that are picking the paper up and reading it because it really is the bottom line. If people ever get to the point of saying we don't need their support or they're not going to help and everybody takes that view, then we are done as an organization. That's just how important this charity walk is to the Kenny Rogers Children's Center."
Already several people have signed up for the walk. Past walkers have received their information packets and several people who have never walked have picked up registration forms. Anyone interested in participating is asked to obtain a form at the Center, 300 Floyd Drive, or call 472-0397 and one will be mailed.
"The kids come out to the Charity Walk and they just light up when they see all the people there walking for them, so many of them can't walk themselves," said Tilley. "Saturday may be your only day off but to those kids, it may be their life."