Monday, August 15, 2022

Ole Miss wins Rocco’s Jello Shot Challenge and receives large donation for Grove Grocery

By Makayla Steede

Journalism Student

Photo from CWS Jello Shot Challenge Twitter account (@CWSShotBoard)

The College World Series is not the only championship Ole Miss won last week. Ole Miss was also named the Jello Shot Champion by Rocco’s Pizza & Cantina after buying 18,777 jello shots during the Jello Shot Challenge. 

The jello shot challenge is not new to Rocco’s, but the level of enthusiasm and participation Ole Miss fans brought to the challenge was a surprise for the owners Kevin and Bonnie Culjat. 

“However, this year we are experiencing something we never expected when we hung up the white board with eight teams written on it four years ago: the perfect storm of two great baseball schools full of tradition, awesome fan support and a huge competitive spirit on and off the diamond,” the Culjats said in a social media post. 

Pat McEvoy, the manager of Rocco’s, started the shot challenge seven years ago, and Rocco’s switched to jello shots a couple years later. 

When fans of the Arkansas Razorbacks bought more than 850 jello shots a few years ago, Kevin saw an opportunity to set a challenge for fans for which team’s fans could drink the most shots. 

“Arkansas came in one year and bought 860 jello shots, and I was, like, ‘that’s pretty cool,’” Kevin said. “Then last year, when Mississippi State was here, they were drinking quite a few, and I said to my wife I’m gonna put up a couple of fliers that say there’s a record out there.”

Last year, Mississippi State overtook the Razorbacks’ record with a new record of almost 2,968 jello shots. 

However, by the fourth day of the series, the Razorbacks broke Mississippi State’s record, but they would not maintain the new record for long.

“Arkansas shows up, and on their first day in town, they rented the party room and drank 1,000 shots in four hours, and then all heck broke loose,” Kevin said. 

Some people ordered shots 100, 300, or even 1,000 at a time, and fans that could not make it to Omaha sent their friends money through Venmo to participate in the challenge. 

To meet the high demand, Rocco’s bought and sold premade and prepackaged SLRRRP gelatin shots. 

Arkansas State and Ole Miss were in close competition during the challenge. The Razorbacks took an early lead, but by the end of the series, Ole Miss fans set a new record with the 18,777 jello shots bought, and Ole Miss took home the National Championship trophy and the Jello Shot Championship title. 

Kevin had hoped that the baseball fans would try to make it 3,000, but he did not expect people to start buying 300 or even 1,000 jello shots at a time. When he realized how invested people were in the challenge, he decided to find a way to give back. 

“We didn’t do the jello shot challenge to be a huge moneymaker for us,” Kevin said. “It was just something that was kind of fun.” 

After looking at the university website, Kevin decided that for every jello shot bought by an Ole Miss fan, $2 would be donated to Grove Grocery. 

With a final tally of 18,777 jello shots, that means that Rocco’s will be donating $37,554 to help with food insecurity on the university campus. Kevin sees it as a way to thank all of the fans who participated in the challenge. 

“They were very, very generous with what they tipped the staff, and they took good care of the staff,” Kevin said. “It was a win-win-win for everybody. I think they had a wonderful time. My staff made a lot of money, and my wife and I got to donate a lot to charity.”

When the jello shot challenge began to go viral on Twitter, SLRRRP took notice. 

“We first saw the competition on Twitter and thought it was a fantastic idea,” Trent Killian from SLRRRP said. “Amazing how quickly things escalated- we actually had to scramble a couple of times to get them more product because the demand was so strong around the competition.”

In addition to restocking Rocco’s supply, SLRRRP also decided to join them by donating an additional $1 for each SLRRRP shot sold. 

In total, there were 18,120 SLRRRP shots sold during the challenge since Rocco’s ran out of supply a few times and used substitutes. 

The SLRRRP donation is to be split between Grove Grocery and the Jane B. Gearhart Full Circle Food Pantry at the University of Arkansas, which came in second place in the challenge, with $9,060 going to each school.

In total, $46,614 will be donated to Grove Grocery as a result of the Jello Shot Challenge. 

Tina Truong, the student director of Grove Grocery, was stunned by the generosity shown by both Rocco’s and SLRRRP. 

“Honestly, it feels surreal,” Truong said. “We weren’t expecting the donation, especially one of that size, so it was a really great surprise. I’m incredibly thankful for Rocco’s, SLRRRP, and the Ole Miss community.”

Truong is also excited for how the donation will help Grove Grocery’s mission to help provide food and meals to student who face food insecurity. 

“With the pandemic causing financial hardship to many student and families and the rise in food prices, usage of the Food Pantry has increased drastically over this past year,” Truong said, “Although we receive many physical donations throughout the year, most of our stock is actually purchased by us.”

The donation will allow Grove Grocery to keep the pantry stocked and potentially offer expanded resources for the community 

“Food is a basic necessity, and it’s heartbreaking to think that many students have to sacrifice meals just to afford rent, textbooks, etc,” Truong said. “No one should have to continuously endure this, so we do anything & everything we can to alleviate these burdens.”

Truong, Rocco’s and SLRRRP all look forward to seeing how the donation will help those who face food insecurity. 


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