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Chili fundraiser helps pay for man's kidney transplant

By ErinPradia
Nov. 26, 2011 at 5:26 a.m.
Updated Nov. 27, 2011 at 5:27 a.m.

Tera Funk, left, and Scott Stratmann joke while being handed another entry as they judge margaritas at the V.A.S.A. Pod's 30th annual Chili Cook-off on Saturday at Colet Inn Bar and Grill. Stratmann donated a kidney to Funk's husband, Corrie, the beneficiary of the proceeds of Saturday's portion of the three-day-long event.

A trio of close friends joined 40 other cooks Saturday in firing up their outdoor grills to compete in a contest "for chili, charity and fun."

First-time competitors Bo Hofferek, 51, Corrie Funk, 42, and Scott Stratmann, 41, of Victoria, participated as a team in the 30th annual three-day chili cook-off with the Victoria And Surrounding Areas pod of Chili Appreciation International.

"We've had a good time. There was good camaraderie," Funk said. "We've done this sort of stuff before, it is just our first time at Coleto. We always have fun when we're together."

The team recognized Stratmann as their chief chef.

"We used all the normal ingredients - and a few other things," Stratmann said. "The pot that you cook it in makes all the difference."

Proceeds from Saturday's cook-off benefited Funk's medical expenses for a recent kidney transplant. The kidney was donated to him by his longtime friend and teammate Hofferek.

Another mutual friend of about 19 years, Petrina Lowery, 40, of Victoria, had participated in the cook-off for about 15 years. Her father-in-law, who helped host the event, thought of Funk and his medical expenses when VASA was looking for a local charity for the 2011 cook-off.

"We try to support a local individual rather than a group," said Dianna Hoy, the "Great Pepper" or president of VASA.

President of CASI, Ed Blair, of Houston, attended the 2011 VASA cook-off at the Colet Inn Bar and Grill.

VASA is one of about 70 local pods of the CASI organization. The pods host a total of about 500 cook-offs across the United States and other countries.

In addition to entrance fees for the cook-off event, VASA raised money through a silent auction, an ice chest raffle and a car show.

Each pod selects local charities they wish to support with their proceeds and they are sanctioned by the CASI organization. Together, the pods raised about $1.4 million for local charities last year. The VASA pod granted three $500 scholarships to Victoria College students with the money it raised last year.

There were several categories that cooks could enter with their savory treats this year, including dips, beans, chili and even margaritas.

"We try to have a variety of things for people to cook," Hoy said. "Anyone can cook a pot of beans. Or at least they think they can. The judges can tell you about that."

The chili had to be cooked on site, outdoors and from scratch.

"It is just meat and gravy - no fillers," Hoy said. "The cooks take pride in their individual recipes."

Anyone is welcome to come and judge the chili for free. Judges evaluate the chili based on color, consistency, smell, taste and after taste.

The cooks earn points based on their placement at individual cook-offs. If a cook earns 12 points, he or she is eligible to compete at the Terlingua International Chili Cook-off for a chance to be champion of the CASI cooking organization.

Each year, several of the cooks meet for Thanksgiving dinner on the Thursday before the cook-off. Deep fried turkeys are provided and the cooks each bring a side dish to share.

Many of the competitors are "like family" after spending so many Thanksgiving weekends together.

Mark McDonald, 51, of Victoria, has been a member of the VASA pod since the early years.

"Back in those days, it was always about getting together and having fun with friends and everyone," McDonald said. "It continued on from there with people from all walks of life. There are doctors and lawyers, school teachers and construction workers."

It is a clean competition for a wholesome cause, McDonald said.

"We try to pick an individual with a need from the community. Someone with medical expenses, or someone whose house has burned down - someone in our area who needs a little help." McDonald said. "We also raise scholarships for our local youth."



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