Walmart Super Chili took home top honors for Team Fundraising for the second year in a row, raising ,405 this year. Pictured are Walmart employees, from left: Amanda Weybright; Samantha Mings; Cassie Carter; Alicia Dixon and Kevin Carter.

Nearly $60,000 was raised for Hospice of Care earlier this month at the Chili Cook Off hosted by the Texas County Memorial Hospital Healthcare Foundation.

Fourteen teams from the community raised $59,166 at the 11th annual event Nov. 4 at the Houston Area Chamber of Commerce community building. The superhero-themed team from Houston Walmart Supercenter raised $7,405 to lead all teams.

This year’s team fundraising effort totaled $24,335. The remainder of funds was raised through sponsorships, admission and auctions at the event. All funds benefit TCMH Hospice of Care, which provides end of life and grief support care for patients and their families in Texas County and the surrounding area.

Approximately 300 were in attendance throughout the day.

This year’s event was dedicated to the memory of Dr. I.C. Keeney, longtime veterinarian in Texas County. He passed away in May.

For the past 11 years, Keeney and his wife, Margaret, and their friends, John and Jeannie Beltz of Willow Springs, donated a beef purchased at the county fair to raise funds for the Chili Cook Off and Hospice of Care. Before the inception of the cook off, the Keeney and Beltz families purchased a beef that was donated to Hospice of Care to raise funds for the organization.

The Keeney and Beltz families were in attendance at the event. David Keeney and Diane Pierce, children of I.C. and Margaret Keeney, accepted a plaque honoring Dr. Keeney.

David Keeney spoke about the family’s experience with Hospice of Care.

“Hospice has a very special place in my whole family’s heart,” Keeney told the crowd.

Keeney said his grandparents received hospice care when they passed away many years earlier. At the time Keeney didn’t realize how hospice services functioned until he and his family experienced Hospice of Care in the last three days of Dr. I.C. Keeney’s life.

Keeney described leaving a hospital in Springfield with his father and returning to his parent’s home where Hospice of Care had made arrangements for a hospital bed to be placed in the sunroom of the home, the place where Dr. I.C. Keeney enjoyed spending at least half his time looking out over the farm, watching wildlife and his herd of cattle.

“Hospice facilitated getting that bed and placing it in my dad’s favorite place in their home, and in those last three days, the family gathered there with him,” Keeney said.

Keeney said the efforts of Hospice of Care helped create a family bonding experience that was not expected but “so special.”

“It’s comforting to know that hospice is available to my family when the time comes,” Keeney said. “My dad was right, for charitable causes, hospice is right up there at the top.”

Keeney’s comments kicked off the live auction portion of the event with Raymond Quick, auctioneer. Numerous businesses and individuals donated items to be auctioned, including a steer purchased by the Keeney and Beltz families at the Texas County Fair.

The cook off also featured booths from each five-member cook off team. The teams adopted a theme, name and set about raising funds earlier in the year through casual days at work, yard sales, raffles, bake sales and other means.

Houston Walmart had 62 associates that volunteered to walk more than five hours each in their free time, earning the team a $5,000 donation from Walmart Stores Inc., which they used to benefit Hospice of Care and to boost their team fundraising efforts.

“This event would not be possible without the incredible effort of the chili cook off teams,” said Jay Gentry, TCMH Healthcare Foundation director.

Also receiving top prizes for fundraising efforts were “Tea Time with Team Jayson,” a Cabool-based team in memory of Jayson Gentry. The group raised $4,488.

“Happy Feet Chili” from Raymondville United Methodist Church raised $2,733 for third place in team fundraising.

The Faretheewells, an Ellington-based Americana band, played throughout the day. Twenty-five different chili recipes were available for those in attendance to sample and to enjoy all day long, too.

Chili styles ranged from spicy red or white. Some chili recipes were made with beans and some without beans. There was chili made with shrimp and chili made with corn.

Three chili judges representing sponsors and supporters of the event were Sandy Howard from Progressive Ozark Bank in Houston, Dr. Matt Brown from Mercy Clinic in Houston and Diane Pierce from Online Metal Supply in Houston. Prizes were given to the chili teams who were competing in several different categories.

Judges choice and first place went to “The Buckshots,” the TCMH med surg department, which made a white chili. The judges awarded second place to “Walmart Super Chili” by Houston Walmart Supercenter for their traditional red chili.

Third place went to “Hot Off the Farm” by Justin Shelby’s State Farm Insurance office in Houston, for a slightly sweet beef and bean chili.

Seven teams made an additional chili style to enter into the “spicy” category. “Hot Off the Farm” also won the spiciest chili award, entering for a traditional red, spicy chili.

The cook off teams set up booths according to their team theme on Friday and Saturday morning of the event. First place in the booth decorating category was “The Walking Wed Zombie Brides,” a gothicstyle booth with skeletons and detritus of death. The OB department nurses dressed zombie brides and Dr. Christopher Baldwin of TCMH dressed a zombie groom.

The TCMH med surg department nursing staff dressed in hunting attire as “The Buckshots.” The team created a hunting “lodge” from a pop up tent, complete with a glowing wood stove. They placed second.

All attendees were given a ballot to vote for the people’s choice. “Tea Time with Team Jayson” won the category. “The Buckshots” were second and “Hot Off the Farm” finished third.

TCMH employees in attendance voted for the “TCMH choice” among hospital teams participating in the event. “Marvels,” the TCMH emergency department team, won.

Teams held fundraisers by selling raffle tickets for a shotgun and Kawasaki-brand utility vehicle that were raffled at the end of the event. Kay Brugman of Edgar Springs won the UTV. Candy Cooper of Mountain Grove won the gun.

The cook off raised $44,754 in cash donations and $14,412 in in-kind donations. All the proceeds raised by the Chili Cook Off support Hospice of Care and remain in Texas County to benefit area residents.

Donations came in the form of sponsorships by area businesses for chili teams, corporate and entertainment sponsorships, cash donations, and donations of items for the auctions.

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