Chill out with chili for charity

Calling all chili chefs. Want to show off your culinary skills? Tabby's Irish Pub in Buford is giving you the opportunity to do just that.

On Saturday you can bring a pot of your best bean concoction and compete for a prize. Better yet, all proceeds from your efforts will go to help 6-year-old Griffin Nurmi in his battle against Chiari, a rare neurological disease.

Shortly after New Years 2008 Griffin's mother discovered he had one shoulder higher than the other. In February, he was diagnosed with scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine. Griffin started wearing a back brace at night, a common treatment for helping the spine grow straight in order to prevent back surgery.

At first it seemed the brace would do the trick, but then an MRI scan revealed the cause of his scoliosis. Griffin has a rare condition called a Chiari III malformation.

"Chiari occurs when the lower portions of the brain herniated or protrude through the base of the skull and into the upper part of the spinal cord. When this happens, the spinal fluid cannot flow properly. The fluid backs up into the spine. All of this affects the nerves of his back and neck and caused his spine to grow curved," said his mother, Debbie Nurmi.

Griffin had surgery at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta on Aug. 25. The neurosurgeon shaved away small portions of the base of his skull and the first few vertebra of his neck to relieve the pressure on his brain. Griffin, once a star player for the Dacula Soccer Club, is now home-schooled, due to his condition.

"Fortunately his Chiari was discovered early," Debbie said. "He falls a little more than most children and sometimes has sharp pains in his ankles, but he should avoid the more severe symptoms like nerve damage or vision problems."

His dad, Greg, has managed a residential remodeling company for the past 20 years, but the recent economy has severely affected his business.

"This is the first time in 20 years that he has no projects and none in the near future. While this has allowed him to be available for Griffin, it has been a strain on the family," Debbie said.

Rauna Hart, owner of Tabby's Irish Pub, hopes for a huge turnout.

"We welcome individuals, companies and businesses. Everyone is welcome to bring their promotional materials and set them out," she said.

Registration for each cooking team is $50. Guest fee is $5 and children under 10 are free.

In addition to the chili cook-off, Tabby's is also sponsoring a two-hour bikers' charity ride to the Georgia mountains that same morning. The $25 fee includes doughnuts, coffee, lunch, a raffle ticket, T-shirt and a free pass to the chili cook-off.

Now that's what I call "cool beans."

For more information, visit www.tabbysirishpub.net or call 404-483-0518.

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.