SVO moves inside for chili cookoff; plans suicide awareness project


Daniel Caudill

Student Veterans Organization member Drew Edwards, right, serves chili to aerospace professor Tony Vizzini Friday at the SVO’s annual chili cook-off. The event moved indoors ahead of an incoming storm.

Despite the cold rain, the Student Veterans Organization helped keep students and faculty warm Friday afternoon at its annual chili cook-off. 

Now in its second year, the event was originally planned to be held outside the Rhatigan Student Center. But with storms on the forcecast Friday, the SVO moved the cook-off indoors to its headquarters inside Grace Wilkie Hall. 

“We like to do it around fall because the cold weather’s coming in, so it’s nice to have chili [and] warm up,”  said SVO President Levi Schenk.

Schenk said the SVO created the cook-off last year as a fun way to bring people together across campus. Anyone can enter their chili free of charge. 

“We want to give back to the community — especially as veterans,” Schenk said. “This community has been longtime supporters of us, so we want everyone to enjoy their time here.”

The cook-off received three spicy and three “regular” entries, but none in the vegetarian category. 

Judges were SGA co-advisor Gabriel Fonseca, aerospace professor and former provost Tony Vizzini, and competitive sports coordinator Austin Sanderson. They tasted all entries and selected winners in each category. The winners both received an Amazon gift card. 

Schenk estimated that about 35 to 40 people attended the event. 

While attendees could eat chili at no cost, SVO raised just over $135 in donations. Those donations will help fund initiatives that the group has planned for the semester, including a project to raise awareness for suicide among veterans and military service members. 

The Suicide Awareness Flag Hunt will place 22 flags across different spots on campus for 16 days, starting Oct. 26 and leading up to Veterans Day on Nov. 11. 

The daily rate of 22 is meant to represent the approximate number of veteran suicides per day. The total of over 350 flags is meant to reflect the approximate number of active-military suicides this year. 

“Suicide is something that everyone can experience. It happens in all cultures,” Schenk said, “So while we’re focused on bringing awareness to what we relate to, we want everyone to connect to it.”  

Students who find a flag on campus are asked to take a photo with it and share it on the SVO’s official Facebook page. Those who submit will be entered in a raffle. 

As part of the awareness campaign, SVO will also host a number of speakers from WSU, McConnell Air Force Based, and other organizations Nov. 8 at the flagpole outside Grace Wilkie Hall.