Sweet fundraiser benefits people with disabilities

  • Written by John Wolcott
  • Published in Local
A group of local Knights of Columbus members and family handed out Tootsie Rolls and collected donations at a Walmart during the annual Campaign for People with Disabilities. The store’s manager and assistant manager joined them in this 2011 photo. Photo: Courtesy Knights of Columbus A group of local Knights of Columbus members and family handed out Tootsie Rolls and collected donations at a Walmart during the annual Campaign for People with Disabilities. The store’s manager and assistant manager joined them in this 2011 photo. Photo: Courtesy Knights of Columbus

From now through Columbus Day, you’ll find local Knights of Columbus members outside retail stores, handing out large-size Tootsie Rolls featuring the organization’s logo and seeking donations.

It’s part of the annual fall “Campaign for People with Disabilities” to raise money for nonprofit organizations. Since joining the nationwide effort in 2011, the Knights of Columbus in Washington state have raised $315,000, including $269,000 to support those with intellectual and physical disabilities, said Kim Washburn of Olympia, state chairman of the event.

“The Special Olympics is our biggest recipient,” with $50,000 going to the organization this year, Washburn said, “but we contributed grants to 44 organizations last year, including The ARC of Washington state.”

Knights of Columbus in vestsKnights of Columbus members Kim Washburn, left, and Sam Pellegrino visited an Olympia radio station to promote the Knights’ fall Campaign for People with Disabilities. Washburn is state chairman of the effort. Photo: Courtesy of Knights of Columbus


Why Tootsie Rolls? The campaign originated in 1970 in Illinois, home of the candy manufacturer that helped launch it, Washburn explained. The candy wrappers incorporate the Knights of Columbus logo on the outside; inside there is information about the Knights.

“The company sells us cases of Tootsie Rolls at a deep discount and Knights set up donation points to raise funds,” Washburn said. “Fred Meyer has been a major supporter, along with Walmart, QFC, Red Apple and others.”

Over the past three years, 49 of the 70 Knights of Columbus councils in Western Washington have been involved in the effort. The campaign is sponsored by the Columbus Charities Fund, which is operated by the Knights of Columbus Washington State Council Foundation. None of the money is kept by the Knights, Washburn noted.

“It’s totally from the heart,” he said. “Often, Special Olympics players will show up to help us. They’re so filled with love. They really enjoy giving out the candy.”