Annual Chili Cookoff supports Relay for Life

By Kitty LeShay - ReminderNews
Ashford, Willington - posted Tue., Mar. 26, 2013
Chili Cookoff
Erika Wiecenski, founder of the Chili Cookoff, with her husband Derrick and sons Kyle and Jacob. Photo by Kitty LeShay.

The members of the Willington Circle of Friends are standing tall fighting a disease that will touch every American in some way. Their third annual Chili Cookoff, held March 23 at St. Philips Church in Ashford, featured 10 very different types of chili which could be sampled by the crowd filling the long lines of tables. More than $1,700 was raised to benefit the Relay for Life Tolland County event, to be held June 7 and 8. Money raised funds cancer research, helps families struggling with the disease and raises awareness and support.

“I have lost several members of my family to cancer. It was an eye-opener for my kids when they heard a newly-diagnosed child speak a couple of years ago. They learned that cancer does not discriminate. It hits all age groups,” said Teri Gareau, one of the event’s organizers.

Also co-chairing the event were Val Pelletier and Erika Wiecenski, who was the originator of the chili cookoff. “Our family Circle of Friends merged with the Willington group. It is a great community event that people look forward to,” Wiecenski said.

The cookoff depends on many hands and hearts giving their time and money to an important cause. “The generosity of our local businesses is overwhelming,” Pelletier said. Texas Roadhouse, Bidwell Tavern and Willington Pizza 1 and 2 where joined by six amateur chili-makers. The businesses and local residents prepare and serve the chili. Other residents donated baked goods, maple syrup, plants and other items to add to the fund-raising. The junior team, those under 18, helped out designing placemats, selling soft drinks and cleaning tables.

The Willington Circle of Friends is a very active group sponsoring fundraising all year long. Coming up April 13 is Zumba for a Cure III and a Willington town-wide tag sale May 4. “We do our fundraising all year so we can go to Relay and enjoy each other,” Wiecenski said.

David Andros, who handles four Relay of Life events for the American Cancer Society, is grateful for all the Circle of Friends accomplishes. “The Tolland County Relay for Life is the most active of those I handle. They are an ideal team because they plan events all year. It is incredible what they do in effort and planning. They are getting the word out about what the American Cancer Society does.”

At the end of the evening, the winners were announced. They were Texas Roadhouse in the business category and Michelle Tharp in the novice group.

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