Successful Chili Cook-Off fundraiser makes big impact for a worthy cause

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By Joanne Dorr

The Haldimand Press

CALEDONIA—Things got a little heated at the Riverside Exhibition Centre in Caledonia this past Saturday night during the Caledonia Community Cook Off (CCCO). Organized by the Caledonia St. Patrick’s Knights of Columbus Club, the seventh annual CCCO was a tremendous success attracting roughly 1,000 people from throughout Haldimand County and beyond.

CALEDONIA—Left: Shelly’s Family Dining won the prize for Best Restaurant; centre: the Caledonia firefighters were thanked and given an honourary award; right: chili judges Anne McAlpine and Bob Curran stand on either side of event organizer Mike Zyma. Absent is chili judge Karin Mallett. —Haldimand Press Photos by Joanne Dorr.

Local chili aficionados gathered to see who would win one of the many prizes awarded by a panel of three judges: Bob Curran, Karin Mallett, and Haldimand Press’ own recipe columnist, Anne McAlpine! With 26 chilis to sample, many were in awe of the endurance of the judges’ iron stomachs!

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While the competition could be hot and spicy, all proceeds from the event go toward helping local families in crisis. These families have children who are either very ill or have challenging conditions requiring major medical treatment/support and community assistance. With the support of our community, local businesses, and organizations, CCCO has raised approximately $100,000 to help over a dozen families throughout Haldimand since their first event in 2015.

CALEDONIA—Left: Shelly’s Family Dining won the prize for Best Restaurant; centre: the Caledonia firefighters were thanked and given an honourary award; right: chili judges Anne McAlpine and Bob Curran stand on either side of event organizer Mike Zyma. Absent is chili judge Karin Mallett. —Haldimand Press Photos by Joanne Dorr.

This year’s event supported three children: Tanika Jacobs, George Hermis, and Emily Heaslip. Tanika (age 15) is on a waitlist for her third double lung transplant and requires the full-time support of her mother. George (age 13) lives with a diagnosis of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and would benefit from a power chair lift at his home. Emily (age 5) has a diagnosis of Treacher Collins Syndrome, is partially deaf, and would benefit from a new hearing aid and other communications tools.

When given a chance to speak to the crowd, all three recipients thanked everyone for coming, with Jacobs reminding everyone that the simple act of signing their organ donor card could save someone’s life.

Haldimand County Ward 3 Councillor Dan Lawrence attended the event. He said, “The Knights of Columbus and the Chili Cook Off are what makes Haldimand County special. We have groups that raise funds that would otherwise not be available. In this case, children. Hats off to Mike Zyma and the Knights of Columbus!”

Even though many attendees may have endured some hot and spicy chili, the event left a sweet finish in their hearts knowing that they had helped Tanika, George, and Emily.