KC’s Operation BBQ Relief that takes meals to disaster areas honored as CNN Hero


By Jill Wendholt Silva, The Kansas City Star

October 11, 2017


When natural disaster strikes, Operation BBQ Relief is seldom far behind, serving up pulled pork or grilled hotdogs and hamburgers to first responders and devastated community members.


The Kansas City-based grassroots disaster relief organization was born after an EF5 tornado ripped through Joplin, Mo. Since 2011, OBR as served nearly 1.7 million meals, including 371,760 over 11 days after Hurricane Harvey and 126,400 in nine days after Hurricane Irma.


“We’re still working on Puerto Rico because every route we went to for help came up short,” says a frustrated Stan Hays, OBR’s co-founder and chief executive officer. “Going to an island is a lot harder than people think. In the past, we’ve always been able to get in there and make a difference. This is the first one we weren’t there within 48 to 72 hours.”


For OBR’s Herculean efforts, Hays has landed in the spotlight as a 2017 CNN Hero: “When Disaster Strikes, They Bring the Barbecue,” appeared on CNN’s website last week, along with this video.


Next month, Hays will find out if he is chosen by CNN to be in this year’s Top 10. If he is, then people can vote online for who they think should be the winner.


The winner, announced during CNN’s December awards show hosted by Anderson Cooper, is eligible to win up to $100,000. At a cost of roughly $3 a meal, such a hefty donation could fund a lot of barbecue: “That could be a game changer for us,” Hays says.


He credits his extended “barbecue family” for a job well done. In the wake of tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, floods and explosions, five logistics specialists have deployed 6,278 volunteers to 23 states.


“I’m the figurehead,” he says. “The volunteers are the heroes.”


When he’s not leading a disaster team, Hays, who lives in Pleasant Hill, Mo., works full time for Farmers Insurance. He attended his first barbecue competition in Lee’s Summit at the prompting of his wife, Amy. He’s pitmaster of County Line Smokers, a team that includes Amy and children Nathan, 14, and Anna, 11...