The 9th Annual Chili for Children Cook-off was held January 27, inside the Lady Luck Casino Arena. The event was a partnership among Lady Luck Casino, the Radio People and Canopy Children’s Solutions helping to support the Warren County Children’s Shelter. The cook-off, despite the rain, was a huge success raising $13,442 for the shelter.

While the event featured jump houses, face painting and other family-friendly activities, the main draw was cozying up with nice warm bowls of chili. Each patron had the opportunity to visit each cook-off tent and cast a vote for their favorite chili.

Peoples Choice

Lawanica Thomas, better known as “Ms. T,” Milieu Coordinator for the Bagley Girls’ Cottage at Canopy’s CARES Center in Jackson, has participated in the cook-off for the past five years. She brings the girls in the cottage together and encourages a cooperative effort to plan and cook their chili entry for Chili for Children. This year, she worked with a team of three.

“We’ve participated for many years, and every time the girls in the cottage are different so it is a new and exciting experience for them,” said Ms. T. “We have help from our amazing dietary staff who give the girls tips and offer their own recipes for the girls to try. They work together and it is great to see the girls when the public responds well to something they did.”

Before the close of the event, Ms. T and the girls had to return to Jackson, never hearing who had won the cook-off. To their surprise, this year’s title would go to the Bagley Girls!

A few weeks later, CARES Center Director Caitlin Mudd shocked Ms. T and the girls with a recognition ceremony. They gathered together all their peers and staff to present them with the Chili for Children First Place trophy.


“I knew we had a lot of votes,” said SH, 15. “I can’t believe we actually won though!”

“I think we had 59 or 60 votes when we counted last,” said KM, 16. “Every time we gave someone a bowl, we would sweetly remind them to bring back their tickets and vote for us. It is really cool that we got the most votes!”

The girls were excited, squealing, smiling and showing off their trophy.

“This was a big accomplishment for them,” said Ms. T. “All these years participating, and we finally won the ‘People’s Choice,’ with the help of Ms. Pam’s chili recipe and the girls’ hard work.”

The trophy was taken back to the cottage to be put on display to encourage future residents to seek what they can accomplish through teamwork.

Warren County Children’s Shelter (WCCS) is a co-educational, crisis and diagnostic shelter working with children ages 0-17 displaced as a result of abuse, neglect or homelessness. WCCS is one of two crisis shelters owned and operated by Canopy Children’s Solutions, with the other located in Hattiesburg. Each year, WCCS provides refuge, food, clothing, medical care and counseling to approximately 100 children. To learn more about WCCS, click here.