Fostering Unity Under Extraordinary Circumstances

Fostering Unity Under Extraordinary Circumstances

Last month, Emeril Lagasse Foundation was planning for the 14th annual Chi Chi Miguel Weekend, which plays a critical role in fundraising for our efforts to support youth. Like many non-profit organizations, we adapted alongside our beneficiaries and communities facing crisis. Instead of hosting an event weekend in Florida on April 4, we held a virtual event and online auction in the spirit of the weekend.

This unique weekend was founded by Emeril Lagasse Foundation board member Mike Thompson and his wife Valerie as a small backyard barbeque competition. Chi Chi Miguel Weekend had grown into a three-day series of charitable events that benefit non-profits along the Gulf Coast. The majority of proceeds support local organizations in Walton and Okaloosa Counties.

By early March, it became apparent that we would face a very difficult decision. The Chi Chi Miguel Weekend was only a few weeks away, and a significant public health crisis had rapidly started to unfold. After much discussion, we made the decision to cancel the 2020 Chi Chi Miguel Fundraising weekend in light of COVID-19.  

Fundraising through the Chi Chi Miguel Weekend events benefits multiple charities, and we knew there were so many young people who needed our help more than ever. We wanted to continue to support and bring awareness to the organizations that benefit from the event with the help of our donors, sponsors and winemakers. We put together a virtual event that would bring together our Chi Chi Miguel Weekend supporters and participants for an evening of fun camaraderie and giving.

The Chi Chi Miguel Virtual Throwdown and Online Auction was hosted on the Foundation’s Facebook page on April 4, 2020. Throughout the evening winemakers, beneficiaries, donors, sponsors and friends of the Foundation joined together in virtual fellowship. Attendees shared memories of past Chi Chi Miguel weekends, highlighted the programs benefiting from the event and encouraged playful competition as virtual attendees bid on items in the online auction. Nearly 100 posts, images and videos were shared on the virtual event page by attendees, all showing their support for the cause. In total, the event raised more than $250,000.

“It was so heartening to see the outpouring of support during our first ever virtual fundraising event,” said Brian Kish, president of Emeril Lagasse Foundation. “This was an opportunity not only to fundraise and bring awareness for the worthy causes supported by the Chi Chi Miguel event, but also to unite and lift each other up at a time when we all could use a little extra positive energy.”

Organizations benefiting from the Chi Chi Miguel Virtual Throwdown and Online Auction include Alaqua Animal Refuge, Camille’s Art for Autism, Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center, Food for Thought and Sinfonia Gulf Coast.

To learn more about the Foundation’s efforts to continue supporting youth in need during this extraordinary time, read our COVID-19 Response Message. If interested in making a donation to Emeril Lagasse Foundation, click here.