A small town’s annual Meatball Cook-Off & Beer Bash has turned into a fun way for locals to raise money for wounded veterans, combining charity with a good time.
Held this year on March 25 at the Channel Inn in Warsaw, Minnesota, the event is the brainchild of Brad Brewer, who decided to do something for wounded veterans in his local area.
A retired U.S. Marine, Brad was concerned about the growing suicide rates among veterans.
“I felt like government agencies weren’t doing enough,” he explained. “People want to help. But they don’t know how.”
In typical Marine style, Brad decided to do something about it. He started the Meatball Cook-Off & Beer Bash in 2013, helped by friends and local businesses.
It was an immediate hit, he said. “Everyone wanted to do it again.”
The event has grown since then. Besides the beer bash and meatballs, there’s a live band. Brad also organizes a basket raffle and silent auction of donated items, including military themed bells made out of fire extinguishers. About 200-300 people show up to have a good time, and raise some money for a good cause.
Winning the meatball cook-off comes with bragging rights, and competition is fierce. Three judges award prices for first, second, and third place—complete with trophies donated by a local business.
As the competition has grown, “the judges had to learn to eat just a little bit of each entry,” Brad jokes.
Over the years, Brad has developed a special relationship with Rivers of Recovery through Amy Simon, our executive director.
Amy travels the event to meet with donors and explain how Rivers of Recovery uses the funds raised by the event.
“It means a lot,” Brad explained. “People want to know where their money is going.”
The annual event helps Rivers of Recovery fund fly fishing trips in the area, making a difference for local veterans.
And that’s what’s it’s all about to Brad and other local residents.
“We’re a small town,” Brad explained. “And we wanted to give back.”
Some of the generous donations to the silent auction: