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Chili cook-off Feb. 18 for Bertram teen battling kidney failure

Ali Thomas of Bertram

A chili cook-off and dinner are Feb. 18 to raise money for medical expenses for 13-year-old Ali Thomas of Bertram, who is fighting kidney failure. This photo was taken in 2022. Staff photo by Nathan Bush

A chili cook-off, dinner, and silent auction are Feb. 18 from 5 a.m.-2 p.m. at Highland Lakes VFW Post 6974, located at 1402 Buchanan Drive in Burnet. The event raises money for Ali Thomas, a 13-year-old Bertram resident fighting kidney failure. Admission is $10; the cook-off registration fee is $30.

Organized through the Children’s Organ Transplant Association, proceeds from the event will help Ali’s family pay for her medical bills.

Initially diagnosed in September 2021, Ali’s condition has worsened over the past months, leading doctors to upgrade her diagnosis to Stage 5 in October and install a dialysis port.

After starting treatment, doctors noticed that Ali’s body was rejecting the procedure.

“They found out she had a rare disorder that causes blood clotting,” said Sandi Hickman, Ali’s aunt. “She’s had to postpone doing dialysis in order to get the blood clots taken care of.”

To fend off harmful clotting, Ali started receiving daily shots in late November. On Jan. 28, she received good news from doctors.

“On Saturday (Jan. 28), she was able to go from taking the shots for the blood thinners to taking the oral form,” Hickman said. “They are hoping to get her back started on dialysis sometime in the next month.”

Even with the unforeseen medical issues, Hickman said Ali remains optimistic.

“She was not liking the shots every day,” Hickman said. “That was really hard for her. Other than that, she’s been really positive.”

Hickman hopes the Feb. 18 fundraiser will increase awareness of and support for Ali’s difficult medical journey.

“We’ve had a lot of people in the community who have really stepped up and are concerned for her,” Hickman said. “We also find out every week that other people don’t know about it, so we’re really happy to get the word out about the cookout.”

Interested chili competitors or anyone wanting to donate to Ali’s cause should visit her COTA page

For event tickets, call Hickman at 580-279-7020.

nathan@thepicayune.com