The restaurant industry comes together to offer patrons a way to fight the epidemic by simply going out to eat.
This spring, thousands of restaurants across the country will be serving up a course of philanthropy with a side dish of goodwill — all to help those affected by HIV and AIDS.
April 26 marks the 27th annual Dining Out For Life, an international fundraising event during which eateries donate a portion of their proceeds to licensed AIDS service organizations in their respective cities. Since its inception in Philadelphia in 1991, the initiative has raised tens of millions, with nearly $38 million raised just since 2007.
“All of the money that is raised by the event stays in the city where it was raised,” says David Newcomb, President of Dining Out For Life’s Board of Directors and Director of Advancement at Project Open Hand in San Francisco. “The mission of Dining Out For Life is to create a powerful experience for cities to be able to raise funds and to raise awareness of HIV and to make sure it’s not forgotten.”
This year, 60 cities have signed on to participate, recruiting restaurants and encouraging people to patronize the venues on April 26 (though some organizations select another day). The events are now held in Canada and in all but 17 states, with some cities like Denver recruiting 250 establishments. And this year, one of the country’s culinary capitals — New York City — has joined in for the first time in recent memory.
“We feel like we finally found an organization — The Alliance for Positive Change — that could really pull this event off well, and not only make Dining Out For Life proud but make the city proud,” Newcomb says.
Dining Out For Life has enlisted major sponsors — such as Subaru — and four celebrity spokespeople to champion the cause: author and television personality Ted Allen, actress Pam Grier, chef and author Daisy Martinez, and Project Runway All-Stars finalist and HIV/AIDS advocate Mondo Guerra.
Guerra first participated in Dining Out For Life when he was younger.”When I went out to eat alone that night, I became interested to keep going back each year,” says Guerra, who publicly disclosed his HIV status on Project Runway in 2010. “When I was first diagnosed with HIV, I had nowhere to turn. I wasn’t open with my family or friends, so the only people I could talk with was my local HIV service organization in Denver.”
“The more people who participate, the more they are helping their community,” he adds. “For me, this is an opportunity to sit down with somebody you care about and have a conversation.”
Allen had been attending Dining Out For Life dinners for years, and says that they serve as important reminders that the virus has not yet been eliminated. The events, he says, are “an easy way for all of us to make meaningful contributions to the fight against HIV/AIDS, by doing something we all would have done anyway — having dinner. I also love DOFL because I love the restaurant industry and this event introduces people to restaurants they haven’t previously tried.”
Newcomb agrees, noting the event is invaluable to restaurants, who engender goodwill from their communities, and for patrons, who are benefitting a cause simply by eating out on that day. “There is no easier way to participate in a fundraiser,” he says. “All you have to do is go out.”
You can learn more about Dining Out For Life events and locations in your city at diningoutforlife.com
Last modified: March 16, 2018