Tootsie Roll Drive hopes to increase fundraising for local organizations in 2020

Knights of Columbus Chairman Kevin Connelly stands with Quentin Southard at school.

For over 40 years, the Knights of Columbus have banded together to raise money during their Tootsie Roll Drive. This year, Chairman Kevin Connelly hopes to drive home to local importance of the drive and the many organizations it helps.

The drive is simple: Knights of Columbus drive volunteers set up outside of various lake shops such as Save-A-Lot, Hy-Vee and Gerbes and offer patrons a tootsie roll. Shoppers are free to take the candy and simply head in to do their shopping, or they can take a moment to donate to the drive.

The money raised goes to a number of important organizations. Primarily, half of the money raised goes to benefit Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital. Connelly says they are proud to donate to the hospital, who help families with an autistic child to get a free diagnosis and care for the disease.

However, Connelly stressed that only half of the money raised goes to this cause, which he says is a large misconception within the lake area. The other half of the funds raised go towards organizations in the lake area that may benefit from the financial support, such as Wonderland Camp and Lake Area Industries. He gave the example of Lake Area Industries’ need for a new pallet jack, which the fund helped to pay for.

“I think that it’s important for people in the area know these are things that are being done to help local organizations,” Connelly said.

Serving as a bus driver for School of the Osage, Connelly has come in contact with a young boy whose family is in direct contact with the organizations they hope to help. Quentin Southard is a student with autism who rides Connelly’s route. He says that he wasn’t sure how to work with Southard the first few rides, but has grown to have a close relationship with the family. Connelly even invited Southard’s father Jim to a Knight of Columbus meeting to discuss living with an autistic child and to help promote volunteers for the Tootsie Roll Drive.

Connelly knows this year will be especially important to raise funds, as many organizations they work with were hit doubly hard by COVID. While he says the goal is to raise a little more than the year before, he hopes this can be an especially good year for funds raised.

“When you see the guys in the orange, know that we’re all about helping the community,” Connelly said.

The event will take place around the lake area on Oct. 9-10. Check your local grocery store to see if any Knights of Columbus volunteers are stationed outside. Stores to check include Hy-Vee, Gerbes, Save-A-Lot and possibly Walmart (details are still in development).