Beaufort News

Celebrity chef cooks up $108K fundraiser for 'Extreme Makeover' family

Celebrity chef Robert Irvine wanted to do something special to benefit the Dickinsons, the Marine family from Beaufort who are living in a new home thanks to "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

So in January, he pulled off a five-course fundraiser in little more than a week -- echoing his "Dinner: Impossible" Food Network show -- that raised more than $108,000 to help the family pay off its mortgage.

Irvine presented the check to the Dickinsons at his Hilton Head Island restaurant, eat!, during a Valentine's Day dinner, and afterward invited the couple's five children into the kitchen to make their own desserts. Their father, Marine Staff Sgt. Bill Dickinson, missed the dinner because he is stationed in Afghanistan.

Even with a busy schedule that has him traveling most of the year, Irvine said the time spent raising money for the Dickinsons was a high point of his career. Irvine, who joined the Royal Navy when he was 15, said he's passionate about honoring members of the armed services.

Others also helped with the January fundraising dinner, including the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa, which provided a venue and wait staff, and Peter Mondavi Jr. of Charles Krug Napa Valley vineyards, who donated hundreds of cases of wine.

"Everybody wanted to give back ... everyone was so in tune to help this great family, this American hero," Irvine said.

The fundraiser drew 675 guests who paid $100 each or $150 for a VIP cocktail reception. They were treated to a live cooking demonstration before the courses were served.

India Dickinson said the Valentine's Day dinner where she received the check was one of the best nights of her life. The money will pay off most of the family's mortgage, she said.

"It's definitely, definitely a relief," she said. "My family has just fallen in love with (Irvine); he has the kindest heart."

And the food at his Hilton Head Island restaurant wasn't bad either.

"That was probably the best steak I've ever tasted," she said.

The Dickinsons' 1,869-square-foot ranch house was torn down and replaced with a two-story, 4,000-square-foot home with six bedrooms and four bathrooms during the Extreme Makeover episode. The family also received gifts after the show was taped, including digital cameras, sets of golf clubs and full, four-year scholarships to the College of Charleston for each child.

When the Beaufort episode will air has not been announced.