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Chili cook-off raises nearly $9000

BY Paige Conley - pconley@perutribune.com

Peru was bustling last Saturday Saturday as nearly 650 people turned out to partake in the Miami’s Heartland Chili Cook-Off.

The festivities kicked off at 11:30 a.m. on the West Canal Street Riverwalk where visitors had the opportunity to enjoy over 36 different kinds of chili along with food provided by Smitty McMusselman’s Pub and Grub for an additional cost.

The annual cook-off is held to help Harvesting Capabilities, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping disabled persons in Miami County, fund projects that assist these citizens.

This year the proceeds raised during the cook-off, nearly $9,000 with sponsor money, is going towards the organization’s project to build an all-inclusive playground.

The all-inclusive playground is going to be built west of Miami’s Fort on the Riverwalk and will have several areas for children with special needs. It’s also going to feature equipment designed to give children with disabilities the chance to enjoy playing with their families.

In addition to the nearly $9,000 raised during the event and from sponsors, the Miami County Community Foundation also awarded Harvesting Capabilities a $2,500 pop-up grant during the cook-off.

According to Vice President of Harvesting Capabilities Susan Gulley, the organization has most likely raised close to $50,000 of their $120,000 goal for the cost of the playground.

The organization’s goal is to break ground on the playground in July 2019 and according to Gulley that hasn’t changed. The organization is still working to raise money through fundraisers, selling memory bricks and applying for grants.

“We have not changed our goal of July next year,” Gulley said. “We’re hoping to raise the remaining money by then.”

The project has already received grants from the Northern and Miami County Community Foundations, Nipsco Employees, Miami-Cass County REMC and Tri-Kappa Sorority, in addition to private donations.

“Private donations have been incredible just people giving because they know it’s something we really need here,” Gulley said.

It’s with the community’s support through donations and their participation in events like the chili cook-off that the project has come so far, according to Harvesting Capabilities Kids’ Division Assistant Director Christina Gornto.

“The community really came together and it was just so amazing,” Gornto said in reference to the cook-off.

The cook-off is just one stepping stone to the completion of the playground and the organization believes it’s a worthy project for the community.

According to Gulley, there are over 850 children in Miami County with varying disabilities and they have nowhere nearby where they can go and play.

“This will be a safe place,” Gulley said. “We’re going to do it even if it takes additional time. We’re going to do it.”

Individuals who wish to learn more about the project or want to donate can visit the Harvesting Capabilities website for more details.