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Living With MS, Cooking With Love, Chili for Life
$885 Raised
44% of $2k goal
23 contributors
0 days left
Ended Jul 20, 2013
I was recently diagnosed with both Multiple Sclerosis and Social Anxiety Disorder. This diagnosis is crushing. However I choose to not be defeated. I'm trying to raise money to cook as a way to fight my condition, and help others as well. You can help. More ...
On May 8th of 2012, I took a medical leave from my job that I would never return from. My doctor had ordered my leave due to chronic pain and panic attacks, and we spent the next 8 months figuring out what was wrong. The diagnosis: Multiple Sclerosis, and Social Anxiety Disorder. I ended up resigning my job in December when my doctor told me that I could not go back.

I love to cook, and have been baking, sautéing, boiling, and concocting in general since I was 12. I used to live in the kitchen. Now I can only do so in short bursts, and have to sit down a lot to conserve my energy. I just can't be active for long periods of time; it is very painful, and sometimes parts of my body go numb.

How does competitive chili cooking help? It helps me challenge myself by first getting me into a social situation where I work on controlling my social anxiety disorder. Being in a booth helps greatly with that. It allows me to, when I need to, tune out the crowd by losing myself in something I love, which is cooking. The "safe space" of my booth is a great retreat when the crowds get to be too overwhelming and claustrophobic.

Secondly, it helps with my MS by creating low-impact physical activity. Setting up my booth, moving around, and doing physical work are necessary, but I have the ability to rest as I need, and can try to pace myself. I still often need a while to recover the following week, but it is a start.

Lastly, I'm among friends. My fellow chili cooks are an amazing family of people, who always are looking out for each other, and they've helped keep an eye on me in the past, making sure I'm hydrated, have the opportunity to escape behind my booth, making sure I take the time to rest when I need it, and helping me plan out the day so that I don't get too overwhelmed.

My partner, who is my emotional, and now complete financial support, is nothing short of amazing. Despite our financial situation, she does everything she can to help me go to these events, because she says that I always seem happier and healthier when I am there, in my own element, doing something I love. She understands that this is a passion of mine, and truly wants to see me succeed.

The events I cook in are sanctioned by The International Chili Society, a non-profit organization that sanctions chili cookoffs all over the country. Each event raises money for local charities and non-profit organizations by charging the public an entry fee for the chili tasting. The attendees then sample as much of the different chili as they can.

My ultimate goal is to be able to compete in enough of these events so that I can qualify for the big event that closes the chili cooking season: The World's Championship Chili Cookoff in October. I have, with the help of friends and family, been able to make it to two cookoffs, and I almost placed at my last one; I made it to the finals! I am finding confidence in this realm, and it is a good way for me to give back to the community at large. If I make first place at one of these events, I'll qualify for World's!

However, being unable to work, I have had to raise money in creative ways in order to make ends meet. I've had to sell many things to get to this point, including much of my kitchen equipment, like mixers and the like, as well as the means to my other creative outlet: all of my photography equipment. This means cameras, lenses, flashes, etc. I'm at a lull in medical treatments while we wait for county medical coverage and disability paperwork to process. We have managed to get our bills stabilized for now, but anything extra, such as chili cooking, has to be funded in some other way than my partner's income.

So what's next? Well, to keep moving, I need to raise enough money to get myself to Clarksville Missouri, for The Missouri State Chili Cookoff. Going to a cookoff means raising enough to pay for the transportation to/from, and to purchase the supplies I need. After that, my goal is Aberdeen South Dakota, where I have the opportunity to cook in my partner's home town during the South Dakota State Chili Cookoff.

After that, who knows? Texas, Colorado, New England, anything is possible. As long as we can keep rolling, we'll keep going. My goal is to go to as many events as I can, and I will be updating this site with information about different cookoffs that I am targeting, and having friends and family help me take photos and videos of the events and my time at them, so that you can see what it is that you are supporting.

Oh, one HUGE thing! My partner and I live in Chicago, and rely on the public transportation here, so we don't own a car. In order to get to these different events, we would either need to rent a car, take Amtrak, or fly. Of course, once there, we need to pay for lodging, and at some events, a canopy and table.

$2,000 might seem out of proportion, but given the above, it will pay for:

- Transportation to/from Missouri, the cooking and sanitation supplies we need, food while there, and the entry fees.
- Entry fees and supply costs at The South Dakota State Chili Cookoff.
- Gas as we have to rent a car for this event.
- It will help us buy a canopy and table to use at some of the smaller events that do not provide these things to their cooks, such as The South Dakota State Chili Cookoff.

So as you can see, I need your help! I want to keep competing, as it has become a way to keep active and feel like I can give back. Follow me here and at my "Chili Games" page for more updates, and to see what your contributions and support have brought forth.

Above all, THANK YOU!

The Chili Games can be found at:

If you're curious about my photography, visit:

If you're interested in some of my other culinary adventures, visit:
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