By Linda Dillman
A spaghetti dinner to raise funds for cancer research is generating good-natured competition between Canal Winchester City Council members and Mayor Mike Ebert, all of whom volunteer as servers for the Kris Sims Memorial Relay for Life Dinner.
The 11th annual dinner takes place on May 15 from 6—8 p.m. at the Canal Winchester Frances Steube Community Center, 22 S. Trine St., and is named in memory of the late Kristen Sims who brought the Relay for Life to Canal Winchester in 2006.
“Kris had been participating in Relays in other communities where we lived since 1996,” said her husband, Bill Sims. “She wanted to do something active to combat cancer after she lost her mom that year to ovarian cancer.”
Sims said his wife became involved by showing up and walking, then encouraging her friends to participate and organizing teams. When the family moved to Canal Winchester, there was no Relay and Kris wanted to start one.
“By chance, we happened to meet an organizer from the American Cancer Society and formed a planning committee in 2005,” said Sims, the city of Canal Winchester’s construction services administrator. “Over the years, our entire family and friends supported her efforts at the Relays and continue supporting them in her memory.”
The dinner is the primary fund raising effort for the Village People 4 Hope team and is an opportunity to get acquainted with city officials as they vie for top honors in tip collection. One hundred percent of the proceeds benefit Relay for Life.
“The unique thing about our dinner is that the city council members wait tables and serve the meals,” said Sims. “It is wonderful that they are willing to participate in this way. They make the dinner so successful. Several city employees and their families volunteer to provide needed items, set up, do the kitchen work and clean up. Mayor Ebert and Carolyn Ebert are instrumental in making the dinner happen. They are always the first to volunteer and help in more ways than I can list.”
Ebert helps “stir the pot” by engaging council members in light-hearted competitions to boost tip collections. Last year, the rivalry involved himself and Councilman Mike Walker.
Participants are assigned specific tables, but sometimes that line is crossed.
“Last year Councilman Walker had his table assigned to him, as we all did,” recalled Ebert. “But being the conversationalist he is and talking with everyone who set foot in the building, I thought he wasn’t paying enough attention to his customers, so I stepped in and started serving and waiting on his table and getting his tips. Everyone knows someone who has or has had some form of cancer. This past year that hit home with me when I was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer and MDS at the same time, both treated by stem cell transplant.”
All of the food is donated, as are the supplies, and council members contribute desserts.
“A few times I thought I wasn’t going to be the top tip getter—my grandkids are not big tippers—so I contributed money myself into my own tip account to make sure I had a chance to win,” said Ebert. “At least a couple of times I personally put in over $200 into my own tip account. It is well worth it.”
Matt Peoples, city public service director and a volunteer since the first year of the dinner, can be found in the kitchen cooking and washing dishes.
“At the end, all of the kids that are there when we are cleaning up are all playing with the balloons decorations that are scattered throughout the community center,” said Peoples. “It is great to see them there having so much fun.”
According to Ebert, between 75 to 100 people attend the dinner and enjoy what he calls, “the most tasty spaghetti and sauce,” anywhere. He would like to see the number reach 120 this year.
The three-course meal includes a salad and bread, spaghetti and meatballs, iced tea, lemonade, coffee and a dessert. The cost is $10 per adult and $5 per child (10 and under). Tickets can be purchased at the door the night of the event as supplies last.
All tips and dinner proceeds benefit Relay for Life, American Cancer Society. Donations are tax deductible and receipts will be available upon request. Cash, check, or credit cards will be accepted at the fundraiser and parties will be seated on a first-come, first-served basis. There will be a 50/50 raffle and tickets will be sold for items to be awarded at the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life event on June 22 from 4 p.m. to midnight at Canal Winchester High School.