Lombard's St. Pius X Parish School recently honored junior high students who participated in the school's Food Wars Challenge for Charity in celebration of National Catholic Schools Week.

Eight competing teams raised $6,300 for local and national charities at what has become an annual event.

Food Wars, in its fourth year, has become the largest charity event at the Catholic grade school. The challenge features junior high students competing to run their own food booth and raise the most money for their chosen charities.

The team raising the most money was Nacho House, representing St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. The group of sixth-graders raised more than $1,500 in two hours by making customized nacho platters. The team also hosted a jalapeño pepper eating contest.

Coming in at a close second, with only a $30 difference, was The Nine Olympians representing Special Olympics Illinois. Third place went to the The Warriors, a group of eighth-grade boys who were representing the Wounded Warrior Project for the third year in a row.

St. Pius X Parish students have raised more than $40,000 for charities through Food Wars over the past four years.

"We challenge our students to pick the charity they wish to represent, to form their own teams and devise a strategy on how to make the most money during the event," co-chairman John Walsh said.

Students are encouraged to invite friends and family to support them.

"We want this endeavor to be their own, to be something they plan out and execute with the least amount of input from teachers and parents as possible," Walsh said. "We hope to inspire them and we know the experience will prepare them for a lifetime filled with Christian service in their own communities."

Teacher Paul Velat and Athletic Director Ed Sullivan teamed up to emcee the challenge -- visiting booths, tasting foods and offering recommendations to patrons.

"The gym was full of energetic people ready to eat for the causes," Walsh said. "'You Eat -- We Earn' was our motto for the night. It was great to see parishioners, alumni and friends all gathered to support our students and their charities."

Other charities represented this year were Shriner's Hospital, Pro-Life Coalition, Alzheimer's Association and Autism Speaks.

"We are very excited about the Food Wars Challenge for Charity," Principal Daniel Flaherty said. "It not only serves many worthwhile charities, but provides our students with valuable experiences in stewardship, leadership and team building. We are thankful to our parish, school and local communities for their loyalty and support every year."

"The Food Wars is such a rewarding event to be a part of," said Erin Bruschuk, parent captain of the Nacho House team. "The entire gym is filled with kids, parents, families and friends who want to help all of the various charities the teams are so passionate about. You can't help but be swept up in all of the good feelings of helping those in need. It's truly an amazing event and we are so proud of how hard these kids worked to help others."

St. Pius X Parish School celebrated its 60th anniversary last school year. Since opening in fall 1956, the school has provided children of Lombard, Villa Park and surrounding communities with a faith-based educational experience. The school serves students from preschool through eighth grade.