WESTFIELD – The Greater Westfield YMCA will host its 10th annual Chili Cook Off March 7 to raise money for its Livestrong Program to help cancer survivors get back into shape after finishing their treatments.
YMCA Health and Wellness Director Cindy Agan said the event began 10 years ago.
“Ten years ago we started working for the Livestrong Program and we were looking for ways to fundraise it,” she said. “One of my instructors mentioned that she had been to a chowder cook off at the Cape, and I love chocolate so we added that, and then we added chili because we know people love to showcase their chili talents.”
Agan said that the Livestrong Program is a free, 12-week program to help cancer survivors get back into shape after their treatments that also lends itself into becoming an emotional support group. “The emotional support is just as important as the physical aspect. It’s all about gaining their strength, confidence and their emotional well-being,” she said.
Members of the Livestrong Program gathered last week for potluck lunch where one person said, “We’re all in the same boat, we’re from different places but we’re all in the same situation and we have the same mindset about comradery,” she said.
Before putting all of the proceeds into the Livestrong Program, Agan said the YMCA also donated half of the proceeds into the city during the Cook Off’s first five years.
“Every year we used to give back to the community,” she said. “One year we gave back to the Fire Department, one year to the Police Department, another to the Cancer House of Hope, and another one to the Salvation Army.”
Along with raising money for the Livestrong Program, Agan said the Cook Off helps to bring the entire community together. “The community is committed to making this fundraiser successful and I think everyone has been touched by cancer so I think it helps bring everyone together,” she said.
Agan said she expects 250 people will attend the Cook Off and tickets cost $8 in advance, $30 for four people in advance and $10 per ticket at the door, while children under three are free.