Updated as of 12:06 p.m. on Oct. 23 to include Elon News Network's exclusive interview with junior Jack Zapata.
Elon University President Connie Book won a rotisserie chicken eating contest against junior Jack Zapata and Student Body President senior Britt Mobley on Oct. 20 in the Moseley student center.
Having started Sept. 22, Zapata is eating a whole rotisserie chicken every day for 40 days to raise funds and awareness for the National Alliance on Mental Illness — a grassroots mental health organization that provides education, advocacy and support for people with mental illnesses.
On his 28th day of eating a rotisserie chicken, Zapata said he teamed up with Book and Mobley to expand his reach and achieve his goal of raising $100,000 for NAMI.
“This is the perfect type of event, we need to really hone in on the next 12 days,” Zapata said. “I really think we can get there. It just depends on people spreading the word.”
After the event on Oct. 20, Zapata said he has raised just under $10,000 — including a $1,500 donation from Book.
Book offered to donate for every piece of chicken that event attendees ate for her and said she was glad to support NAMI when Zapata reached out to her about a month ago.
“They have provided such good support, especially through COVID,” Book said. “When you think about where we are in our country — with young people, and loneliness and all the ways in which we're feeling really challenged around mental wellbeing — I thought this was a great idea.”
Book said it was a great event to encourage the Elon community to donate.
“It’s a really nice way to engage people,” Book said. “People are generally charitable, but when you attach something that is community building at the same time, that they could cheer behind — I just thought it was a really creative approach.”
Mobley also participated in the contest and said he reached out to Zapata after seeing posts about Book’s involvement on Chicken4Nami — Zapata’s fundraising Instagram page — to see if he could join.
“This is awesome, raising money for a great cause,” Mobley said. “I said, ‘I saw the flier with Dr. Book on it. But what happens if you have two presidents?’”
Mobley said he was glad to participate to spread awareness for NAMI.
“Raising money, especially for mental health resources — making sure that folks who are traditionally not able to get access to those resources — is absolutely huge,” Mobley said.
Zapata said he has reached out to NAMI and has not yet heard back from them but is excited to support the organization.
“It's a really amazing program, a great charity that does so much for those with mental illness,” Zapata said. “It's really an honor to be able to help support them.”
Zapata said besides his daily chicken, he eats berries and broccoli. Yet, eating a full chicken has proven a challenge.
“You hit a wall. And at that point, it's just mind over matter,” Zapata said. “You chew, and you eat and you chew and pray for the best. And at the end of the day, it’s to raise money for charity.”
Zapata said moving into the final stretch of his challenge, he would love to be joined by players of the Carolina Panthers or Carolina Hurricanes in another community-based chicken event.
He also has a GoFundMe.