Melissa Walker

Melissa Walker is the Key Training Center Executive Director.

Saturday, July 24, marked the finale of the 45th annual Run for the Money week.

The week that volunteer community runners illustrate the daily struggles of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) by running 180-miles from Tallahassee to Lecanto.

The week kicked off with our dinner auction. Then, on Monday, a handful of runners left the steps of the Old Capitol, starting the journey southward in the blistering summer heat. Each runner takes turns covering the miles, with additional runners pitching in along the way. The result brings much-needed awareness and focuses on persons with I/DD and raised an astonishing $273,210.48 to provide year-round day and residential scholarships to those in our community who get no or little government financial assistance.

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Reflecting on this past week, our community’s steadfast support of the Key Training Center’s mission of enhancing the lives of those with developmental differences remains constant and is truly amazing. Our community continues to open its arms, hearts, and support of persons with I/DD.

There are so many hands that are weaved in making our Run for the Money events a success from businesses donations, community participation and donations, and a multitude of volunteers. Each activity has its unsung heroes. For the dinner auction, you have Leon McClellan with a host of volunteers to feed over 300-plus attendees, to Crystal Automotive’s 2021 Camaro drawing with a year of gas compliments of Lowman Law Firm, to the attendance of many individuals and businesses.

During the dinner auction, we recognized our 2021 Citizen of the Year, Debbie Selsavage; Organization of the Year, IMS Pharmacy; and 2020 Runner Celebration of Excellence, Roscoe Watts.

For the 180-mile Run, you have a core group of community runners that work together and run the entire week. These runners are caring, compassionate, and giving souls. We are grateful to Shawn Host, Chris Moling, Anthony Sequin, Rebecca Schmalstig, Craig Stevens and Stephanie Stevens. In efforts to keep our runners safe, Citrus County Professional Firefighters IAFF local 4562 took vital signs to ensure the health of these runners and with the following agencies provided traffic control to protect the runners: the Sherriff’s Office of Citrus, Dixie, Levy, Taylor, and Tallahassee City Police.

For the community run, we have many individuals that put on their shoes to walk, run, and cycle to support the cause on the home front. This year, we accumulated over 1,000 miles on top of the traditional 180-miles. This brings our total miles logged from the beginning of the Run to a fantastic amount of 11,523. For the Walk a Mile in My Shoes, you have over 100 participants walking with a Key client team captain for a mile of pure celebration. For the runner’s celebration, you have hundreds of people coming out and joining the Key Center clients in the welcoming home of our runners! For the telethon, you have many individuals volunteering as hosts and taking phone pledges.

For our Impact Partners that make a significant donation each year to include: Advanced Disposal, Bay Area Air Conditioning, Citrus County Chronicle, Citrus Memorial Hospital, Digital Hound Media, Labels, LassiterWare Insurance, Nick Nichols Ford, Sissine’s Business Solutions, Royal Legacy, Naturecoast Radio, and WYKE TV.

During the telethon, I was brought to tears after seeing one of the videos with our late, longtime Key Center executive director Chet Cole. Hearing his voice stopped me in my tracks and instantly brought me into his presence. After gathering myself, I shared with the viewers that Mr. Cole would be so proud of our continuing success of the Run that he established decades ago. His passion and mission endure through all of us as we continue to carry the torch. Our mission remains the same: to allow I/DD adults to reach their maximum potential, whether caring for themselves, working in the community, living independently, or just sharing the joy of life.

To that end, our community continues to play a significant role in supporting that mission, and this last weekend was a beacon of its success. Thank you to everyone that played a role in our success!

Melissa Walker is the Key Training Center Executive Director.

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