Smokin’ and Jokin’ event Sept. 22 to benefit Vincennes family
By Natalie Reidford
That feeling we get when a loved one is suffering and we want to help: It’s difficult, but it often spurs action that brings out the best in us.
When Derek McKee’s friend and former Vincennes University classmate Brandon “BJ” Beal was dealing with the effects of cystic fibrosis, McKee started thinking of ways he could help.
“I (had) absolutely no medical knowledge, very limited funds, and from the outside looking in, there was nothing I could do … right?” McKee says on his event’s Facebook page, recalling how he felt in the fall of 2016, when Beal’s symptoms were becoming severe.
Beginnings of a festival
But after some thought, McKee, 37 and a 2001 graduate of VU, realized he did have talents — stand-up comedy and barbecue grilling — that he could share.
How, though, to combine these talents?
“Then almost like it was written in front of me, there it was … SMOKIN’ & JOKIN’,” McKee said.
It was a start. But what was Smokin’ & Jokin’?
“I have to be honest. I spent the next two months just trying to forget the whole thing,” McKee said.
But he couldn’t forget it.
“God has a way of reminding us in His own way when we think something isn’t right for us or doesn’t fit into our plans,” he said.
His ideas began to form into a barbecue and comedy festival.
“By this time, BJ had passed away, and I had more motivation than ever before,” McKee said.
Enter Silas John.
Silas, 6, was a friend of Beal. He is also living with cystic fibrosis, diagnosed shortly after birth.
Silas, a Vincennes resident, is the son of Nick and Katie John, both 32. Nick works in the Career Center at VU. Katie teaches home school to Silas and his sister, Josie, 3.
“During BJ’s funeral, Nick stood up to speak and took control of the room when he talked about the bond that his son and BJ had,” McKee said.
“Since Smokin’ & Jokin’ was inspired by BJ, and since he was already gone, there was only one family I had in mind to be the recipient of the money raised from the event.”
Nick and Katie have been advised to save money for a set of lungs for Silas. While Silas is currently doing well, the need will inevitably arise, and much of the cost will fall outside of insurance coverage. McKee’s goal is to assist the John family by raising money for future expenses.
When he found out McKee wanted the John family to receive the money from the festival, Nick John said they were honored.
“We never run out of reasons to see God’s glory in the many people that bless our lives,” John said.
The event will open with a barbecue contest. Ten teams are currently scheduled to compete, with more teams coming in, McKee noted. Space is available for an additional five to 10 teams. Prizes will be awarded in three categories (pulled pork, ribs and chicken), along with a Best of Show prize. The public is invited to taste the entries and submit a People’s Choice vote beginning at 5:30 p.m. Donations for Silas will be accepted.
Following the barbecue contest, the doors open to the catered dinner and comedy show at 7 p.m. McKee will open for nationally-known comedian Brian Bates. Tickets are required for the 18-and-older show.
While the thought of making Smokin’ & Jokin’ an annual event is a bit daunting, McKee believes there will always be someone to help.
“As much as God has blessed me and my family, I have no choice but to help people,” he said.