RHINELANDER - People enjoyed 13 different chilies at First Supply and Gerhard's Kitchen and Bath Store in Rhinelander Friday afternoon. But they weren't there just for a meal.
"Every year we do this chili feed to give back to our community," said Gerhard's employee Aly Nehls. "This year we chose Pete because we felt that he needed it the most and we could help him out."
Three years ago, Pete Rondeau fell down a staircase and broke his neck. After getting treatment in Minneapolis for a couple of years, he made his return to Rhinelander.
"This is what I consider home. I really wanted to be back in Rhinelander," said Rondeau. "I couldn't see living any place else."
The Chili for Charity event raised nearly $2,500 for Pete's van.
Rondeau taught and coached at Rhinelander High School for more than 30 years.
"He was my ski coach," said former student Bob Moreau. "I was surprised he recognized me right away after 47 years. It was a pretty neat experience to talk to him."
Moreau was glad to see Pete in high spirits.
"He's got a great attitude. It's amazing, very inspiring," said Moreau.
"What happened, happened. I can't take it back. Rather than being remorseful about it all I took a positive attitude," said Rondeau.
Money raised at the event will help pay for a handicap van for Pete's family. Thanks to community benefits like this one, nearly $20,000 have been raised so far. Pete says he's thankful for all the support he's received.
"I never thought that there would be that many people that would even remember me, let alone put on the benefits for me," said Rondeau. "I feel a little overwhelmed that there's so many people that cared that much."
Pete's GoFundMe page