‘Beat the Heat Challenge’ raises awareness in the search for Oakley Carlson

The reward fund for finding 5-year-old Oakley Carlson is growing by the week. One close friend to Oakley’s foster parents struck a unique way to bring more awareness to the young girl’s case.

The “Beat the Heat Challenge” chicken wing eating tournament that pit man against sauce, and tested the mettle of 15 challengers, made the 60-some spectators bust a gut on Saturday, Aug. 27, at Mount Olympus Brewing in Aberdeen.

The six rounds of fiery-sauced wings saw adults battle it out like gladiators in such an entertaining way within the bar’s beer garden. Despite the background for the event, which was sadness, anger, uncertainty and pain, the night provided joy and laughter.

Though Kyle Swor was one of 13 to make it through all six rounds of the spicy sauces, he wasn’t quiet about it. The sauces included one that had an undetermined number of peppers, and an even hotter sauce that was made famous on the TV show “Hot Ones,”

“I’m a crowd pleaser,” Swor said. “My suffering is a drop in the bucket compared to the joy I brought the people. I’m like Russell Crowe in (the movie) “Gladiator.” I’m an entertainer, but more handsome than him.”

Katie Gonsalves, manager at Mount Olympus Brewing, partnered with Sydney Newbill, owner of Renae’s Rendezvous, to host the challenge. The point was to increase the reward fund to find Oakley. The reward fund was at $79,791 before the weekend, according to the nonprofit organization Light The Way Missing Persons Advocacy Project.

The contestants’ $25 entrance fees pushed the reward fund to $80,166. There were numerous prizes donated from Grays Harbor County-area businesses for a silent auction. The total amount raised Saturday was not yet known to The Daily World as of Sunday, Aug. 28.

Gonsalves said the event was to get people together and show love and support for Oakley, and her former foster parents, Erik and Jamie Jo Hiles. Gonsalves said she’s known the couple since they were all in high school.

“Learning they were fostering Oakley and seeing how happy they were was the best thing and such a blessing,” Gonsalves said. “My daughter and Oakley took dance classes together and they started to form a bond just like Jamie Jo and I did. This is near and dear to my heart, and it is the least we can do to show our love and support.”

Newbill, who said Oakley’s story is “tragic and heartbreaking,” shared why she helped Gonsalves host the event.

“Someone knows something, and the best things we can do (are) keep raising money for her reward fund, and to keep pressure on those responsible for investigating her whereabouts by continuing to tell her story. I’m just grateful I have a chance to organize something larger to bring more awareness to her story and show the Hiles family that they are supported by this community.”

If fighting through pain during the chicken wing challenge was showing love and support, the men who competed did so in a great way. Newbill, Gonsalves, and Dave Morris, who sauced the wings himself, made it tough on the competitors.

“Instead of giving them all five wings, we’ll give them one at a time,” said Newbill minutes before the first round started. “That way, they’ll have to sort of sit with it.”

Morris, kitchen manager and head cook for Mount Olympus Brewing, said his homemade “Mobsta” sauce, had “eight or nine” different peppers. He was glad he could help make the challenge a hard one.

“It’s a good feeling to do something for a little girl who was done wrong,” Morris said. “Any time you can get the community together is a good thing.”

The crowd who stuck around past the wing tournament got to enjoy local band “Murder of Crows,” play a set.

Gonsalves said she and Morris put a lot of thought into which sauces they’d use for the challenge.

“Dave and I have been secretly trying sauces during the last three months in order to find the hottest sauces,” Gonsalves said.

They succeeded in making the men wince and their faces flush with redness. And then, at least a few of the men had private, post-game adverse reactions.

Newbill, who also was the emcee for the event, got the men talking and telling tall tales about their adverse reactions to the spicy meat while they ate.

One of the men said they thought they were eating an “ice pop.” Another one of the challengers said how people might think the beer would help deal with the hot wings, but they’d be wrong. Others wiped sweat from their faces and joked about how their tears were from thinking about the sad scenes from the film “Titanic.”

Phil Cockerill, from Hoquiam, said the challenge was much easier at the start. But there was a sixth wing added that he didn’t care for.

“I was pretty bold at first,” Cockerill said. “That bonus wing, I was glad it ended (after that.) The last wing was infinitely hotter. It’ll take me about 30 minutes and five beers to get over it.”

Despite the pain he put himself through, Cockerill thought doing so was worth it.

While Swor drank a pint of D’s Wicked Cider Co.’s “Baked Apple,” he reflected on the misery he had just endured.

“I need a nice sweet palate cleanser after eating literal poison,” said the light-hearted Swor. “They tried to kill me.”

But, despite the irritation the sauces brought forth, Swor said he didn’t think of backing down.

“As soon as I paid the $25, I wasn’t stopping,” Swor said. “This train wasn’t stopping.”

The cause kept Swor going.

“I think it’s a beautiful cause,” Swor said. “I hope the lengths Sydney went to (for this) can result in a resolution.”

Gonsalves sounded grateful to have Newbill helping so much in getting the event going.

“Sydney did amazing,” Gonsalves said. “I’m really happy she did this with me. I couldn’t do this without her.”

Gonsalves said the event turned out “amazing.” She was happy about how much the event aided the cause to find Oakley.

“A lot of people were asking who (Oakley) was,” Gonsalves said. “I think we raised awareness more than anything.”

Dave Morris, head cook for Mount Olympus Brewing, yells to the 13 remaining challengers that there is a bonus round they must get through. Morris, who sauced the wings, was glad to help out with the cause to raise awareness and more funding for the search for Oakley Carlson. (Matthew N. Wells | The Daily World)

Dave Morris, head cook for Mount Olympus Brewing, yells to the 13 remaining challengers that there is a bonus round they must get through. Morris, who sauced the wings, was glad to help out with the cause to raise awareness and more funding for the search for Oakley Carlson. (Matthew N. Wells | The Daily World)