BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Every day, more than one hundred people with special needs, are given the chance to feel “normal” at the Exceptional Foundation in Homewood.
“Our people are the same as everybody else, and they want to do the same thing as typical people and they just don’t have the opportunity, and what a blessing it is that we can provide that,” says President Tricia Kirk.
The center serves more than 705 people, and has become a model for other centers across the southeast.
“The Exceptional Foundation started here in Birmingham but we are excited that we have been copied and we are the model for one in Fairhope, Auburn, Charlottes, and Atlanta,” says Kirk. “So it’s a great need across the country that started right here in Birmingham.”
The organization is a non-profit, and that means they need support from the community to continue to offer their programs.
That’s why the Annual Chili Cookoff is such a big deal. It’s expected to raise $400,000.
“It is our largest fundraiser, and it makes up about a fourth of our budget, so we do depend on this chili cookoff for us to maintain the quality of our programs,” says Kirk.
This is the 16th year for the event, and organizers say it’s going to be bigger than before.
“Last year we had a 146 teams, this year we have a 158, and it’s kind of exciting that we have a waiting list of people who want to see if anyone has backed out that they can take their spot. Nothing like having an event in the nonprofit world and having a waiting list on people that want to participate,” says Kirk.
Most of the teams are from the corporate business world,
“A lot of them are using it for team building and marketing. You know when you have a crowd of 15,000 you can reach a lot of folks just by cooking chili for the chili cookout and giving to a good cause at the same time,” says Kirk.
Mortgage Bank is sponsoring the cookoff, for the 3rd year in a row.
“For us it's really a joy to give something back. we are a local company, and we i think it's important for our clients to see that type of involvement here locally,” says Ben Chenault, the Senior Vice President of Mortgage Bank in Alabama. “It takes only a minute once you walk in these doors to see the joy, everyone is super sweet, how can you not get involved with something like that.”
The cookoff will be Saturday March 7th from 10:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance, and $15 at the gate. Kids 12 and under are free.
You can purchase tickets, and learn about parking and shuttles, on the Exceptional Foundation’s website.