Hi everyone! Thanks for dropping by. I’m so glad you’d like to know a little bit of background information about our event. The Big T Memorial Cook-Off is a labor of love started by a group of life-long friends to remember one we lost too soon, and to support those we love. My name is Shannon Margraves, and I’m very proud to be the daughter of Terry “Big T” Lair, and I would like to share a little bit of our history with y’all.
Our very first cook-off was held in the fall of 2010. The event was originally dubbed the Big T Memorial Chili Cook-Off and Music Festival, and, as the name suggests, it started as a chili cook-off featuring live music. Most people didn’t know back then that our event was actually a benefit. The Big T Memorial Cook-Off started out to support an autism organization that I started with the help of a few other very special people, and our story has never really been told.
Big T’s Buddies Autism Support Network is an organization a few others and I started in the summer of 2010 out of desperation. I felt so alone with my son JB’s diagnosis, and I didn’t know anyone around our area that was going through the same thing as we were. So here’s a little background on how we got started and how we got named:
My father, Terry Lair, known to the world as “Big T”, passed away suddenly in January of 2010. Daddy was a HUGE part of JB’s life–Grandaddy was his absolute favorite person ever. They played all the time, and it seemed like Daddy was the only person who could truly relate to JB. When we went to Nana and Grandaddy’s house, if Grandaddy was still at work or gone on a hunting trip, JB would sit in his chair like he was waiting on him. It was awesome to see, and so cute. But when we lost my dad, it was like we lost a little part of JB too. He’s yet to relate to anyone like he did to Daddy. Butch is a very close second, but I still don’t see the complete magic that was there with Daddy.
We would go to Momma’s house and he would sit in that chair, look out the window, and look around at us like, “hey y’all, what gives? Where is he?”. And it broke my heart. And even now when we go to Momma’s, even though it’s a different house, he still goes right to that chair. It always makes me smile now.
Before Daddy died, he and I, my husband Butch, and a few friends had been talking about doing some kind of benefit to raise money for kids with autism in our rural area. When JB was first diagnosed at around 2 years old (very early for an official diagnosis), we felt so completely alone. I didn’t know anyone going through what our little family was going through. I felt trapped. I wished that I could find someone to reach out to, and, at the very least, someone to talk to who’d been in the dark, isolating hole that I felt like I was in at that time. In our little area of rural Texas, we are at least an hour from any city. Dallas is an hour and a half to the North, Houston give or take 3 hours to the South, and the smaller cities of Waco and Tyler a little over an hour to the West and East, respectively. We are definitely in a rural area. There are no “help organizations” close enough to really make a difference here. There were no support groups close to us. No resources. And not very many people who even understood what autism was in 2007.
Daddy was a huge BBQ cook. My brother Wade and I went to all kinds of cook-offs with Daddy while growing up and into our adult years. (The pic to the left shows all of us who were part of the cooking teams over the years.) He cooked for lots of people around town, and would cook for any kind of local benefit, especially if it was for kids. Naturally, when we started kicking around the idea of raising money, he wanted to cook. The big question then was, “who gets the money?”. So we started saying that someone needed to start some kind of local group so that people weren’t so alone in this situation. Autism is very lonely, and also very expensive. And the talks continued…
Fast forward a few months. Daddy was gone, and this same group of friends and Butch and I were talking about a way of doing something in Big T’s memory. The obvious choice for us was starting a cook-off. But what would we do with the money that comes in from this cook-off? We put the two together, and…ding ding ding!! Our friends basically said, “hey Shannon, you start a group, we’ll start the cook-off, and the cook-off can benefit the group”. Win-win for everyone!! And boom, Big T’s Buddies was born. It took some other awesome people to meet up in a Fairfield Elementary School classroom, and we got the ball rolling. The idea behind the name “Big T’s Buddies” was because Daddy always called JB his buddy, so we thought that was cute, took a vote on it against a few other names, and it won out. We added “Autism Support Network” because it tells you what kind of group we are. And so the life of Big T’s Buddies’ Autism Support Network began.
And so does the life of the Big T Memorial Chili Cook-Off and Music Festival. The cook-off was originally put on by the Centex Oilman’s Association, and later handed over the the Tri-County Oilman’s Association. After the first few years of working with these organizations, our original group of friends decided it was better for the life of our cook-off if we started our own organization so that we could take the pressure of this large event off of these other organizations.
These days, the Big T Memorial Cook-Off is organized by the Golden Circle Special Needs Association. Our organization is focused on providing funds to aid special needs children in our little five county area of rural Texas. Children from Freestone, Navarro, Anderson, Limestone and Leon counties benefit from our efforts. We have given much needed donations to the special education programs at local schools, and we hope to establish a scholarship fund in the near future.
Please keep checking back for more updates on the progress of the Golden Circle Special Needs Association and the Big T Memorial Cook-Off. We hope to do some pretty big things in the near future. This is one labor of love that we are very proud of, and we know Big T is smiling down on us for our efforts. Come on out and join us at our next cook-off!
Golden Circle Special Needs Association
President: Leldon Childs
Vice President: Jeff Kirgan
Secretary: Nicole Schaefer
Treasury: Nicole Schaefer
– Matt Kirgan
– Garret Scherer
– Margaret Childs
– William “Butch” Margraves
– Shannon Margraves