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Pitmaster uses BBQ skills to honor US troops

Grand Champion pitmaster Stan Hays takes barbecue seriously.For seven years, he and thousands of volunteers ha...

Posted: May 25, 2018 6:22 PM
Updated: May 25, 2018 6:22 PM

Grand Champion pitmaster Stan Hays takes barbecue seriously.

For seven years, he and thousands of volunteers have been sharing their cooking skills and camaraderie with those in need through his nonprofit, Operation BBQ Relief, providing meals for disaster victims and first responders.

"Barbecue is comfort food," Hays said. "Disasters are what we do, but our passion is helping people. ... For us, that's about both feeding those who are hungry and honoring veterans and those in the military."

Thursday, Hays and his team put their grilling skills to use at the Invincible Spirit Festival, an annual event that honors military service members and their families, hosted by the Gary Sinise Foundation. Celebrity chef Robert Irvine, whose foundation assists with the event, invited Hays' group to be part of it. Among those in attendance were wounded and ill service members being treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

For Hays, it's a chance to show appreciation to those who've sacrificed a great deal in service to the country. It's also a valuable opportunity for his volunteers to practice working together as they would in a disaster situation.

"We're going to be serving more than 6,500 people, which is a really good training operation for us," Hays said. "We'll be serving more variety of food than on a disaster, but in many ways it will be like a real deployment."

It's a meaningful day for Hays and his Operation BBQ Relief team. The group got its start after Joplin, Missouri, was devastated by a tornado on May 24, 2011.

Since then, the group has responded to 46 disasters around the US, serving more than 1.75 million free meals to victims and first responders."Cooking for wounded warriors and their families and the caregivers ... to do something that's so special on our 7th anniversary just means a lot," said Hays, who was honored as a Top 10 CNN Hero last year for his efforts. "I can't think of a better place for us to be."

In the coming months, Hays and his group will continue expanding their mission. He hopes to partner with another 2017 Top 10 CNN Hero, Andy Manzi, whose nonprofit, Warrior Surf, helps veterans coping with post-traumatic stress disorder.

And in August, Hays plans to run a "BBQ Boot Camp" at Fort Bragg in North Carolina for active duty service members.

"We'll teach them the basics of grilling and smoking," Hays said. "We'll show them about competition barbecue and the camaraderie that offers ... and we'll teach them what we do in BBQ deployments and hopefully get more volunteers. "

Ultimately, Hays loves using his passion for barbecue to help others. For him, nothing is more satisfying than finding new ways to do just that.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 51079

Reported Deaths: 2756
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion12019693
Lake5588248
Elkhart353959
Allen2939134
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Hendricks1454100
Johnson1340118
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Fountain352
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Switzerland320
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Parke270
Martin260
Ohio230
Vermillion200
Warren151
Union140
Pike110
Unassigned0193

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 64214

Reported Deaths: 3036
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin11724445
Cuyahoga8979393
Hamilton6781207
Lucas2952305
Marion274539
Montgomery244035
Summit2327209
Pickaway222241
Mahoning1928239
Butler182147
Columbiana137860
Stark1214114
Lorain112069
Trumbull104578
Warren97725
Clark80010
Delaware69815
Fairfield66717
Tuscarawas60410
Lake58923
Medina58232
Belmont56922
Licking56812
Miami50631
Portage49259
Wood48851
Clermont4737
Ashtabula44744
Geauga42543
Wayne37253
Richland3715
Allen35641
Greene3439
Mercer29910
Erie27122
Holmes2595
Darke25626
Huron2402
Madison2169
Ottawa17324
Sandusky16015
Washington14620
Ross1443
Coshocton1423
Athens1391
Crawford1385
Putnam13715
Hardin12312
Morrow1201
Auglaize1094
Jefferson1092
Muskingum1001
Union931
Preble901
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Hancock861
Lawrence830
Guernsey823
Clinton811
Hocking809
Williams762
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Highland501
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Adams261
Vinton232
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Noble140
Harrison131
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Morgan110
Unassigned00
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