Fired up for a cause: Cullman EMS 2017 Chili Cook-off

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W.C. Mann

Director's Choice winner Jared Johnson with Cullman EMS Director James Curtis

CULLMAN – It was a busy day at Cullman Emergency Medical Services on Second Avenue downtown Saturday, but not for the normal reasons. On this Saturday, firefighters, emergency medical responders and law enforcement officers from all over Cullman County gathered at Cullman EMS for their second annual charity chili cook-off.  The day provided an opportunity for the community to meet the emergency personnel who serve them every day, and to raise money for a worthy cause.

Event coordinator Dawn Holmes explained, “The event started last year to bring the community in to meet us (Cullman EMS) on a non-emergency basis; and it was for us a public service to meet them and have a friendly competition, and make money for a charity.

“This year we’re taking care of one of our own,” Holmes continued.  “Melanie Jones is a paramedic here at Cullman EMS, and her granddaughter is Claire “Bear” that a lot of people have seen on Facebook and different social media outlets, who is fighting cancer.  Her and her dad are having to live up in Pennsylvania at the Children’s Hospital so she can get her treatments, because that’s where they can best treat the kind of cancer she has.  Her mom Heather is still living here to take care of daily things at their house, and to keep the insurance with her job.  They are also volunteers with a fire department in our county, so we wanted to do it for her this year.”

“Claire Bear,” or Claire Byars, was diagnosed with a type of malignant germ cell tumor known as an immature teratoma, or IMT.  The location of the tumor prevented surgery, and she is required to undergo a combination of chemotherapies and other treatments.

Money raised at the event will go toward expenses for the 2-year-old’s medical treatment and travel for Heather Byars. Jeff Byars is the EMS captain of the Bethsadia Volunteer Fire Department and is the EMS Officer for the Cullman County Fire Association. Heather Byars is an EMR (Emergency Medical Responder). She was the first licensed EMR in the state of Alabama. Both are currently on inactive duty due to the ongoing care for Claire.

Sixteen groups (a substantial increase over last year’s 10 entries) entered their takes on chili, to be judged for three awards: Hottest Chili, Director’s Choice (chosen by Cullman EMS Director James Curtis) and People’s Choice (chosen by popular vote by a count of $1 tickets deposited at each team’s table).

People’s Choice first place went to Daniel Cummings of the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office, who also won last year’s People’s Choice and Director’s Choice awards.

Second place went to Roger Henry and Melanie Jones of Cullman EMS and A-Med Ambulance Service.

Coming in third was the team of Adam Taylor and Steve Dyson of Cullman EMS, Logan Volunteer Fire Department, Cullman Fire Rescue and Regional Paramedical Services.

Logan VFD’s Jared Johnson took home Director’s Choice honors.

Hottest Chili winners were Dawn Holmes, Donnie Holmes, Jacob Chumley and Jennifer Young of Cullman EMS and Berlin VFD.

Several drawings were held throughout the event for door prizes, but the big drawing was for a free weekend trip to MountainLoft Resort in Gatlinburg.  That prize went to Hanceville Fire Chief Rodger Green.

As for how much was raised for Claire Bear, final amounts are still being calculated.

Look for a full photo gallery on our Facebook page here.

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