It’d be easy to make the argument that these Bluffton Township firefighters deserve the coveted title of Hilton Head Monthly’s Most Valuable Person just for the job they do … you know with all of that rescuing people from burning buildings and such.
But this group of four firemen goes above the call of duty each winter when they raise money for a needy Bluffton family the way South Carolinians know best: by selling delicious, slow-cooked pork barbecue.
Every December for the past five years, firefighters Michael Rehill, Jim Donath, Walt Cooler and Todd Harvey man eight cookers set up in the parking lot of Tanger Outlet Center 1. Each of the 200 or so 8-pound Boston butts (the upper part of a pork shoulder) is cooked for seven hours, and then either sold whole for $30 to customers who pre-order; or as part of a $7 barbecue plate with all the fixin’s for those of us who just happen upon the remarkable sight.
The event, which doesn’t really have a formal name other than the Annual Boston Butt Fundraiser, raises thousands of dollars each year for a handpicked recipient, always a family with a sick child that faces mountains of medical bills.
“We make sure they’re legit and that they’re going to use the money for the child,” Rehill said.
This year’s recipient was Ray Nettles, a 10-year-old in a courageous fight against leukemia. His mother, Donna, who is self-employed, was unable to afford high health insurance premiums before her son’s diagnosis when the real estate market crashed.
Rehill checks in with the family from time-to-time and was happy to report that Ray’s disease is in remission. But his expensive treatment — which includes chemotherapy and blood transfusions — must continue for years to come.
“He’s doing really good right now,” Rehill said.
The annual fundraiser’s popularity has surged thanks to the group’s hard work and savvy business skills. Several local businesses — including Katie O’Donald’s, Cornerstone Grill, Chipper’s, Staples and Golis Family Jewelers — help offset the costs, and the firemen call each of their customers from prior years to see if they’d like to order one again.
Many people stop Bluffton firefighters in the streets each autumn just to make sure they’re doing the barbecue again. The sweet smell of roasted pork wafting through the Tanger parking lot and across U.S. 278 also does plenty to get the word out.
Just don’t ask for the recipe.
“We have a dry rub that we put on it,” Rehill said. “We don’t tell anybody what it is. It’s a secret among us guys.”
Who knew giving to charity could be so tasty?