By Sarah Kinzbach
Fusing food and fun to raise funds for the College Station ISD Education Foundation
A fusion of men and food will grace the Brazos County Expo Complex on January 31 for the 7th Annual 50 Men Who Cook Fundraiser.
The largest annual fundraiser for the College Station ISD Education Foundation, 50 Men Who Can Cook has grown exponentially since its inception in 2008 and has grossed an estimated $435,000 total; last year’s event alone raised $112,000. The growth is expected to continue with a fundraising goal of $125,000, says Teresa Benden, director of the Education Foundation.
“We are bursting at the seams. We had about 1,500 people in attendance last year,” says Benden. The growth and popularity of the fundraiser has resulted in a waiting list for chefs to participate. Even the name has been surpassed- 66 booths with a total of 114 men will cook this year.
“It’s unique. There is nothing else like it out there,” says Benden. 50 Men Who Can Cook features community and school leaders as “celebrity chefs.” Each chef, or team of chefs, picks a recipe of their choice and provides 500 two-ounce samples. A $50 ticket for patrons includes beer, wine, and all the food you can eat.
In addition to food and drink, 50 Men will feature an expanded silent auction with signed sports memorabilia and present teacher mini- grant projects. The mini-grant presentations allow people to see their money in action. Teacher mini-grants are valued up to $750 and fund in-classroom projects to promote innovative learning.
“With all the budget cuts, we’ve had to tighten our belts. The Foundation bridges the gap where the tax dollars fall short,” says Benden. The Foundation was started in 1999 by a group of community members wanting to support the public schools. Since then, more $1.7 million has been raised for new school programs, student scholarships, teacher grants, and more.
Further promoting innovative learning and incorporating technology, the Foundation has recently launched Success 24/7, an online and on-demand website providing student support in core subjects for grades seven through 12. Accessible by computer, smart phone or tablet, Success 24/7 takes learning to the kids…and helps parents. “We’re getting great results with kids accessing and using it,” says Benden, adding that the online platform also supports students who are struggling or missed class by providing extra help outside the classroom.
Additionally, hands-on initiatives are also made possible through the Foundation. The Aquatic Science Department at Consolidated High School has been able to establish a tilapia farm where students raise and harvest fish. The Food Science Department also benefits by hosting a fish fry fundraiser with the harvested tilapia. The money raised goes back to the aquatic science center to further promote the department’s projects. Students get the opportunity to follow the food chain from beginning to end and gain entrepreneurial exposure with a self-sustaining business.
Programs such as Success 24/7 and the tilapia farm are made possible by 50 Men Who Can Cook, whose success has replaced the need for an annual fundraising campaign for the Foundation.
“Everybody loves it,” remarks Benden. “Everybody has a lot of fun. It’s a blast and a great cause.”
For more information, to purchase tickets, or for sponsorship information, visit givetokids.csisd.org
50 Men Who Can Cook
6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Brazos County Expo Complex, 5827 Leonard Road, Bryan
Tickets are $50.
Sponsorships are available.