YBOR CITY, Fla. (WFLA) — Outside James Joyce Irish Pub in Ybor City, a crockpot kept a bowl full of chili warm for those participating in Florida4Warrior’s cookoff.
“One thing that people don’t realize is nothing supports a veteran,” said Tamara Sugar. “Nothing gives them what they need like being with other veterans.”
That’s exactly what happened at Saturday’s cookoff in Ybor. Nine different bars and restaurants cooked their own kind of chili — vegan, with beans, without beans, with cornbread — and competed for patrons’ taste buds and votes. The winner was Centro Cantina’s chili.
“We’ve had a great amount of people show up,” said Brandon Weimer of James Joyce Irish Pub. “I sold a bunch of tickets and like I said, a portion of every ticket sale goes toward Florida4Warriors.”
The nonprofit is another organization ensuring no veteran falls through the cracks.
“Right now, blessedly, the number has gone down,” explained Tamara Sugar. “But when all this started in 2015, the number was 22 veterans a day that committed suicide. That’s not acceptable.”
That number hits home for Florida4Warriors founders Tamara and Terri Lynn Sugar.
“June 3, 2010, we had somebody that was very close to our whole family,” recalled Tamara Sugar. “That we had known since he was a little kid, and he went out to Gandy Bridge and he took his life.”
“A lot of people don’t take suicide serious, especially veterans suicide,” said Terri Lynn Sugar. “I lost one of my closest friends this past Sunday.”
About 100 people participated in the cook off. Florida4Warriors sold 50/50 raffle tickets and merch, like hats, shirts and tumblers. All of it went directly to support the nonprofit’s cause.
“The main goal of the organization and the events is that that gun stays on safety,” said Tamara Sugar. “That they are here another day because we want them here another day. We want them here today, tomorrow and forever.”
The nonprofit also works with other organizations in Florida to help vets acclimate to civilian life, and puts on social events, like rucks.
They say it’s not a hand out, it’s a hand up.
Centro Cantina got a champion banner and their names on a chili cookoff plaque. Florida4Warriors’ new hiking season starts in January. You can learn more about their cause and donate here.