Chili cookoff in Aynor celebrates Big Paws service dogs’ cause

The famous phrase, “Go west, young man” has changed directions, at least for a canine charity.

The Big Paws Canine Academy & Foundation Inc., a nonprofit entity that trains and provides service dogs to veterans and former first responders – police officers and firefighters – with disabilities, will celebrate its grand opening with a chili cook-off, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at its “East Coast” base, 1379 Horry Road, Aynor.

This location will become the foundation’s third site, joining its corporate headquarters, founded in Mira Loma, east of Los Angeles; and Midwest center in Sioux Falls, S.D. Big Paws operates solely with volunteers, and all costs for veterinary care and equipment for the dogs comes from donations, grants and fundraisers. The inaugural event in Aynor entails a chili cookoff, for which entering a dish is free and tasting for the public costs $5.

Mary Slavik, the chief operating officer and president of Big Paws, voiced her excitement last week at expanding the charity’s reach, across the country, and thanked a host of local businesses for help and supplies to get the Aynor site ready.