Like many nonprofits, icare started with big dreams and little money. As we brainstormed our first fundraiser, two goals came into focus: the event should be fun, and the winner must receive a leather belt befitting the champion of some form of martial combat. From there, an eating competition was the obvious choice. How would an eating competition make money? We didn’t know either, but we were hungry for chicken wings. We recruited a dozen friends to compEAT, and we asked them to beg friends and family for quarters and dollars for each chicken wing they could eat. We hoped to raise $500 to buy linens for a cancer clinic in Nicaragua. We turned 543 chicken wings into thousands of dollars.
The EAT-A-THON became icare’s annual fundraiser, and remains our primary funding source today. For a number of years, the EAT-A-THON included only Drake Law students and benefited only icare. In 2009, the fourth annual EAT-A-THON expanded to include Drake Law alumni.
EAT-A-THON spectators in 2010 witnessed Brian Lalor vacuum up a record 127 wings in 15 minutes. Two years later, in 2012, Katie Raisch (Shanahan) ate 98 chickens wings—more than any female contestant ever.
In 2013, icare began sharing the proceeds of the EAT-A-THON by allowing each contestant to designate a local Iowa nonprofit to receive one-half of their fundraising dollars. Since then we’ve spread the love to almost 50 local organizations.
In 2017, the 11th Annual EAT-A-THON raised a then-record $21,000+ in pledges. Nathan Overberg earned the Polk County Bar Association $43 for each chicken wing he ate, on his way to smashing the fundraising record. And two-time champ Katie Raisch dominated 90 chicken-wings in 15 minutes.
The 2018 “Tag Team Edition” raised over $40,000 in pledges for 12 Central Iowa nonprofits. Kick It Forward swept the awards by raising the most money and eating the most wings.
The 2019 “Relays Edition” fired the starting gun on new traditions. The event changed to a 4×4 relay format in honor of moving to the Drake Relays. Instead of wings, the compEATers chowed down on Jethro’s World Famous Adam Emmenecker Sandwich. Led by the aptly named Eat Greater Des Moines, with Kick It Forward in a close second, ten Iowa nonprofits raised over $67,000.
The 2020 EAT-A-THON was on a record-breaking pace before being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We joined for a virtual “stare-a-thon” and chipped in $1,000 for each non-profit that had planned to participate.
Together, we’ve raised over $200,000 for dozens of local nonprofits.
Check out pictures from EAT-A-THONs past here!