Pelham Beer Hog hosts seventh annual Chili Cook-Off

Published 12:41 pm Monday, February 6, 2023

By LIZZIE BOWEN | Staff Writer

PELHAM— An array of smells and excited faces were present at the seventh annual Guinness Chili Cook-off on Saturday, Feb. 4.

On Premise Sales Supervisor of Alabama Crown Distributing Company Ian Willicott discussed the importance of events like this.

“Guinness is very popular in the culinary world,” Willicot said. “A lot of chefs use it in a lot of different ways. Rather than just doing a regular barbeque or traditional chili cook-off. We wanted to encourage the public to be creative and utilize Guinness in their recipe. It can be used in any way. It can be reduced, a marinade, we have had teams do a Guinness sour cream.”

Willicot said Guinness does a lot of business with The Beer Hog, and he was trying to find new ways to do a new and exciting event, different from regular cook-offs.

Last year was the first year that Guinness partnered with Wings of Hope.

“When I was first read what their mission was, something kind of said to me this is a unique opportunity,” Willicot said. “They were all on board, and it was has worked out well. It helped bring more people to (the cook-off) and it gives the teams more of a purpose to cooking.”

Wings of Hope is a pediatric foundation that benefits terminally ill children. Co-founder Tonya Willingham discussed Wings of Hope’s mission and her inspiration for founding the organization.

“Wings of Hope is an organization that provides services to families with terminally ill children or critically ill children,” Willingham said. “The services we provide are mainly financial. A family may request that they need help with rent, utilities, car payments, car insurance, medication. Really, they just need to make the request. We have bought washing machines, we bought a freezer so that a family could put their child’s dietary needs in the freezer.”

Wings of Hope also provides services such as house cleaning, lawn care and meals for families in need.

“Basically, the goal is to provide for these families so that they can focus on what it’s important— their children and their family,” Willingham said. “And not have to worry about the menial day-to day life tasks, because we know that they are maybe having to take off work. They shouldn’t have to worry about paying their light bill or mortgage. They should be able to focus on their kid.”

Last year, Willingham said she was contacted by Guinness through The Beer Hog. Guinness was made aware of the Wings of Hope Foundation through a partnership with No Shave November, a fundraiser held by law enforcement.

Wings of Hope began in 2010 after Willingham lost two of her own children to illness. Willingham said that through her daughter’s hospice group, doctors would notice that there were families of sick children who had financial needs.

“In 2006, one of my daughters passed away,” Willingham said. “Then, in 2010, one of my twins passed away. Through their lives, my husband and I saw that there was a need for (helping) families that had terminally ill children.”

One day, while the doctor was visiting Willingham’s daughter, Hannah, the two decided to form Wings of Hope. Willingham said there has been growth since the organization’s emergence in 2010.

“Growth wise we have had more families that we have been able to assist,” Willingham said. “We have also been able to steadily raise our funds.”

There are no paid employees of Wings of Hope as all of the money raised goes directly to the families in need.

More information on Wings of Hope can be found at