By MATT CRANE
The T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability at Mississippi State University is ready to run, walk, roll, stroll, skate or dance its way through a one-mile course with the help of the Starkville community when it hosts its first Fun Run at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26.
Speech-Language Pathologist and classroom instructor Christan Toney said the center has been brainstorming ideas for a fun, family-friendly fundraising event that was unlike anything Starkville had seen.
"The motto for our Fun Run is 'Run it, walk it, roll it, stroll it, skate it, dance it … just do it with style," she said. "We want everyone to participate in any way they can."
Toney said participants have the option to extend their run past the designated one-mile mark while stations are set up along the way encouraging those in attendance.
"You can do it one time or you can do it two or three times to make it more like a 5k distance," she said. "Along the route, we will have numerous 'Cheering Stations' that are there to cheer you and your family on was you make your way around the loop."
Toney said she and the center are excited about the event and appreciative of the support they have gained from Cadence Bank.
"We are very excited to be partnering with Cadence Bank for this event," she said. "They have been very supportive of all of our ideas and will be helping us out on the night of the event by volunteering their time."
Proceeds from the Fun Run will benefit Project IMPACT, a comprehensive preschool program for children with disabilities that Toney said has been active since 1999 and services children age birth to five with special needs.
"This program offers a continuum of early intervention services for children with developmental disabilities," she said. "Project IMPACT provides a family friendly approach involving parents and caregivers as essential participants in evaluations and the intervention process. Project IMPACT serves children from Oktibbeha County as well as nine of the surrounding counties."
Special Education teacher Elizabeth Williams said the center has an involved partnership with MSU's Day One Leadership Program which is serving an active and vital role in preparation for the event.
"We have been very impressed with the maturity, creativity and leadership shown by these young freshman students," she said. "Along with helping plan and execute our Fun Run, each Day One student has generously give over 20 hours to working in our classrooms with our teachers and students."
Williams said the the Day One students are impacted by the one-on-one interactions with the young children at the T.K. Martin Center.
"Each Day One student leaves our program with a better understanding of the challenges, and most importantly, the joys of working with children with special needs," she said. "The impact made on our Day One students during this semester will hopefully build a sense of enthusiasm that will lead to further commitments of service and leadership in their communities."
Director of the T.K. Martin Center Janie Cirlot-New said the center hopes to reach out into the Starkville community to further educate and garner support from residents.
"The community can support the T.K. Martin Center y letting others know the services provided by the center," she said. "They can support through donations and participation in the fundraisers."
Another Special Education teacher, Traci Campell, said seeing the improvement and progress of each student is what she enjoys the most about her job.
"My favorite part is watching them progress through our program and know that you were a part of such a vital part of their early childhood education," she said. "Also, when working with preschool children, you get the opportunity to form relationships with their wonderful families."
The teachers said their biggest hope for the Fun Run is for the families of the program to feel the outpouring support and encouragement from those coming out to cheer them on, and call them by name as they finish the run.
The teachers said many times people with special needs are defined by their disability rather than their name, and the race bibs the children will be wearing will show the how powerful it can be to be called out by their names, not their disabilities.
The T.K. Martin Fun Run begins at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26 with open registration starting at 4:45 p.m. Early bird tickets are $12 for individuals, $30 for a family of three or more and $10 for a raffle ticket.
For more information, call 662-325-1028.