The Illinois School for the Visually Impaired discovered last year that chili can do more than fill empty stomachs –– it can serve as a way to fill a hole in the budget created by state funding cuts.

The Illinois School for the Visually Impaired discovered last year that chili can do more than fill empty stomachs –– it can serve as a way to fill a hole in the budget created by state funding cuts.

In 2010, when funding was eliminated that enabled student athletes to travel out of state for competitions at other schools for the visually impaired, a chili supper fundraiser was organized, according to Marsha Schoth, director of development for the school in Jacksonville, Ill. Dietary manager Cindy Daugherty, who made the chili, reported that more than $50,000 was raised, mostly through donations generated by publicity in the Chicago area.

“We had donations that were huge,” Schoth said. “It just went over so well.”

Of the total raised, $3,000 — after deducting expenses of $2,000 for the ingredients for 300 gallons of chili — came from serving food to 400 guests at the event and from the sale of gallons of chili, according to Daugherty.

Because of the success of the first chili supper, the school is sponsoring one this year to “beef up our activity fund,” Schoth said. This fund supports outings for pizza and to movies, shopping and bowling.

“It gives them a chance to do a lot of really great activities,” the development director said, adding that most of the school’s 74 students live on campus.

The menu includes chili, crackers, beverage and dessert. Gallons of chili will be available through advance sales at a cost of $15 each.

Daugherty will be making 300 gallons of chili again this year, she said. Her recipe calls for 340 pounds of ground beef, 17 pounds of onions, 22 gallons of canned tomatoes, 17 gallons of tomato juice, 38 gallons of chili beans, 2 pounds of chili seasoning and 8.5 gallons of water.

Residential students will join guests in dining on Daugherty’s chili this year, as they did last year.  Fifth-grader Bernie Roach, who is from Pana, Ill., gives the recipe his endorsement, saying, “It has perfect flavor.”

Older students will be volunteering at the event, as will school employees.

“They all pitch in,” Daugherty said.

The Illinois School for the Visually Impaired offers elementary, junior high and high school education to Illinois residents who are blind or visually impaired, according to Schoth. She added that the school has a transitional living program whereby high school graduates can continue to live on campus until they reach age 22, learning skills to live independently.