Cook-off benefits local Kidney Foundation, Alzheimer's Association

When the tongues stopped burning and the volunteers counted the earnings, the Thursday, Nov. 13, chili cook-off held at Michael's Banquet Hall in Latham was about much more than meat and beans.

Over 500 people attended the fundraising event, which was sponsored for the first time by the National Kidney Foundation and Alzheimer's Association of Northeastern New York.

According to National Kidney Foundation Executive Director Carol LeFleur, the event was originally held by the American Lung Association, but that group discontinued its sponsorship last year.

We were talking about the event, and thought it would be great fun to bring it back, so we got together with the Alzheimer's Association and decided to do [the challenge], she said.

LeFleur said she hoped the event would help educate people on the

importance of early detection of kidney diseases, she said.

According to Marc Kaplan, director of communications and advocacy for the Alzheimer's Association of Northeastern New York, the event was perfect for both foundations because it allows the public to help the foundations while bringing their families to a fun event, and enjoying good food.

The money, on the National Kidney Foundation end, will go toward programs and services for patients, including emergency grants, transportation programs, and free kidney screenings. For the Alzheimer's Association, the money will go toward programs and services such as support groups, the association's 24-hour call-line and other programs.

"Also, we want to get the word out," said Kaplan. "It's an awareness raising event."

When festivalgoers walked in the door of Michael's, they were greeted by volunteers sporting orange T-shirts handing out fliers that explained the causes of both organizations.

Preparing for the event, Chef Edwin Nazario, of the Edison Club, was excited to debut an unexpected type of chili: kangaroo chili.

"We were looking for something a little different, meat-wise," said Nazario.

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