CASPER, Wyo. — Christmas is exactly one week away and over 1,600 Natrona County School District students will be able to start the break without the headache of outstanding meal debt.
That’s thanks to a donation from the Central Wyoming Chapter of the American Petroleum Institute who presented the school district with a check to cover the breakfast and lunch debt on Wednesday, Dec. 18.
“We were fortunate enough to have a really awesome year with both of our events, the chili cook-off and the golf tournament, with tremendous support from the community and our sponsors,” API Board Chair Ben Mills of KLX Energy Services said. “So after we’d made our donations to all the local charities throughout the year, we had a little bit of money left over.”
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“We just started talking about it a couple months ago and looking at different options of things that we could do with the extra money that we had left over and this came up so we just kind of jumped on it. I think it was 1,690 students that had a past due balance throughout the entire school district. So we were able to pay off that entire balance.”
The 27th Annual API Chili Cook-Off at the Casper Events Center was held in February with the theme “Cowboy Tough.”
“So the American petroleum Institute and the different chapters throughout the U.S. are trying to just spread the word about oil and gas and trying to support the local community,” API Board Co-chair Jason Boe of Eighty Eight Oil, LLC said. “We do the chili cook-off which then we donate to roughly 30 to 35 charities in and around Casper. And then our golf tournament, those funds go to local students attending Wyoming colleges.”
“We thought paying off the student lunches would be kind of cool and different from what we normally do. We wanted to kind of focus on kids and try to help out wherever we could.”
The 2020 API Chili Cook-Off is scheduled for Feb. 15 and has the theme of “Game Show.”
“So far from the 2019 chili cook-off we were able to donate $130,000 back to the community and support about 30 different charities,” Mills added. “We’re very fortunate to have such an awesome community that comes in a supports our events. You know, we’ve had people in the chili cook-off that have been doing it since it started, so 28 years that show up every year…really huge contributors and major sponsors that have been doing it for so long.
“And we always have new sponsors that are coming in and want to support the community and just it’s awesome to be in a position to be able to just do things like this and have so much support from the community.”
The extra funding they saw this year allowed API not only to pay off school meal debts for the first time, but also to do other new things for the community.
“In addition to this is we’re having a Free Skate Day at Davis Street Station on January 4th,” API Board Member Max Renton with Mesa Gas Solutions said. “That’s a Saturday. We also donated donated to Wyoming Food for Thought, the NCHS Angel fund and the Wyoming Rescue Mission.”
The 2020 API Scholarship Golf Tournament will be held June 6-7 at the Casper Country Club.
“All the money that we raise at the golf tournament goes into our scholarship fund and then we tried to promote within the district at the different high schools,” Renton said.
NCSD Food Service Manager Mike Pyska said the the school district receives similar donations from other organizations, but that API’s stands out.
“This is by far the greatest donation,” he said. “We’ve had some other large ones, but we certainly appreciate this. It supports lunches and breakfasts both.”
NCSD Spokeswoman Tanya Southerland said that API’s support of Wyoming Food for Thought is similarly noteworthy.
“We currently have approximately 700 students in the Casper and Glenrock communities that benefit from Wyoming Food For Thought Project with those weekend food bags, especially this time of the year, Thanksgiving break and then this upcoming holiday break.”
“They come together and build those boxes of food for those kiddos throughout the holiday when they’re going to be at home. And I remember one story last year. It was just a little guy. He had to have been maybe first or second grade and he came and asked if maybe he could get an extra bag because he had smaller siblings at home that he was also feeding and taking care of. So, we really appreciate the work that you guys do because that’s just what it’s all about.”