Click here to watch a video of the Kiss-A-Pig gala.
For the second time in 15 years, the team representing Liberty County got to pucker up and kiss Reba the pig at the 19th annual Kiss-A-Pig campaign, which benefits the American Diabetes Association.
The winners were announced at the final gala Saturday evening at the Hyatt Regency in Savannah. Team Liberty candidate Joel Osteen kneeled down and planted a wet kiss on Reba after defeating Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools.
Folks representing his community and campaign team roared, cheered and even squealed during the momentous occasion.
“I think I enjoyed the kiss more than the pig did,” Osteen said. “He was trying to get away from me.”
Osteen and his team collected $82,676, according to Maria Center, the Southeast Georgia and Coastal South Carolina director of the American Diabetes Association. But campaign manager Danny Creasy said they still were tallying last-minute online donations.
“We came in at right at $83,000,” Creasy said.
“Liberty last won in 2008, when Creasy broke a record that still stands by raising $160,000,” Center said. “The Friends for Diabetes Fun Shoot remains the single largest fundraising event in Southeast Georgia and Coastal South Carolina. And this year, they added the Wild Taste of Dorchester. These events alone have raised more than $415,000 for the mission of the American Diabetes Association.”
Liberty Elementary School Principal Chris Anderson also was recognized for his help with the campaign in the past four years.
“Anderson was on hand at the gala to accept an award for his role in helping the Liberty Kiss-A-Pig effort,” Center said. “His school has raised over $18,000 in the past four years.”
Savannah-Chatham County Public School brought in $59,843.25 this year. Center said May Howard Elementary School contributed $18,000 to that total.
Team Liberty and Team Savannah compete in the “big pig” category. Savannah has competed for 19 years and Team Liberty for 15. The annual competition between communities and organizations honors the pig for its vital role in the research of insulin, which was derived from the pancreas of a pig.
“The two teams enjoy cordial relations even though they are competitors because they know the real winners are people living with diabetes,” Center said. “Liberty County has phenomenal leadership and their community is a model for other communities nationwide.”
Several teams also competed in the “small pig” category. Team Statesboro, a first-year competitor, took the top honor. It was represented by Georgia Southern football coach Jeff Monken, Bubba Hunt and Car City. Center said they raised $33,619.
“Their team was sponsored by J’Adore Bridal and Sugarland Candy, featuring sugar-free products,” Center said. “In recognition of J’Adore’s support, Mr. Hunt donned a wedding gown and veil and was walked to the front of the Hyatt ballroom by Patrick Hopkins, owner of Shane’s Rib Shack and another supporter of the team. Mr. Hunt applied lipstick before kissing Reba the pig. Then it was coach Monken’s turn. The crowd erupted into applause.”
Center said the goal for this year’s campaign was $235,000. They hit $260,005.83.
“Everyone worked real hard and Joel was the best candidate you could ask for,” Creasy said. He did anything we asked him to. I didn’t know him personally at first, but not only did we get to kiss the pig, I definitely made a brand-new friend.”
“It was fun. We had a great time doing it,” Osteen said. “Danny and everybody on the team did a great job. They ran the campaign like a smooth machine. I’m absolutely going to stay involved for next year.”