HIV/AIDS fundraising is main course

HIV/AIDS fundraising is main course

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Whether you’re in the mood for Italian, Thai, French or even some good ol’ American grub, as long as you’ve got an appetite for charity, you’ll find a restaurant to suit your tastes April 30.

The annual Dining Out For Life encourages area residents to visit one of a long list of local eateries that will donate a portion of that night’s proceeds to ActionAIDS and other local HIV/AIDS-service organizations.

The event, which ActionAIDS launched in 1990, has now become an international effort, with restaurants throughout the United States and Canada opening their doors and their cash registers for HIV/AIDS causes.

In addition to benefiting ActionAIDS, proceeds will also be contributed to the AIDS Coalition of Southern New Jersey, the AIDS Activity Office at the Lehigh Valley Hospital, AIDS Delaware, Family and Community Service of Delaware County, Planned Parenthood Association of Bucks County and Planned Parenthood of Chester County.

This year, more than 200 establishments in the Delaware and Lehigh valleys will participate in Dining Out For Life. The restaurants, which serve a variety of cuisines and represent all price ranges, will contribute one-third of their profits to the beneficiaries.

Kevin Burns, executive director of ActionAIDS, said this year’s list of restaurants is slightly longer than last year’s, which he said is impressive in light of the current economic conditions.

“We’ve been really lucky and we’re very grateful that the restaurant community stepped up to the plate this year,” he said. “It’s been such a tough year for everyone, including restaurants, and we’re really fortunate to have so many places willing to participate.”

The third annual “20-percent Tuesday” special also returns this year. During the event, diners will have the chance to enter a raffle to win a four-night vacation for two to Playa del Carmen in Mexico through Apple Vacations, and those who contribute $25 or more along with their raffle entries will receive a coupon for 20-percent off their bill on any Tuesday evening throughout the year at more than 50 participating restaurants.

Burns said ActionAIDS received approximately $200,000 from last year’s Dining Out For Life. He noted that about 82 cents of every dollar that comes into the organization is turned directly back over to the community through the group’s client services.

He said that this year the organization is particularly eager for Philadelphians to head to area restaurants for the event, as ActionAIDS contends with rising community need that has not been matched by an increase in government funding.

“In Philadelphia, every eight hours a new person is infected with HIV. Our caseload is growing and there’s a greater need for our services, but so many of our programs are government-funded and, like many places, we’ve received level funding this year,” Burns said. “The caseload continues to grow and we have to provide the same level of services, but with fewer government resources.”

To help educate restaurant patrons who may not be aware of the mission of Dining Out For Life, ActionAIDS is dispersing hundreds of staff and volunteers to each of the participating restaurants. The ambassadors will assist restaurant staff, as well as explain the purpose of the fundraiser to diners and thank them for their contributions.

One individual who needs no introduction to the event is local restaurateur Stephen Starr, one of this year’s recipients of ActionAIDS’ annual Friend for Life Award.

Burns said Starr, who owns a dozen local restaurants, all of which are participating in this year’s Dining Out For Life, has been a tireless advocate both for the event and for ActionAIDS.

The organization will also give a Friend for Life Award to Tim Mahoney, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Subaru, the international sponsor of the event.

Both awards will be presented at Starr’s Parc restaurant in Rittenhouse Square, the host establishment for the fundraiser.

Mayor Nutter is expected to attend the event and proclaim April 30 Dining Out For Life Day in the city.

Burns expressed gratitude to those who’ve signed on to participate in the event at Parc — such as representatives from AIDS Law Project, Philadelphia FIGHT, the William Way LGBT Community Center, AIDS Fund, Calcutta House, Circle of Care, the AIDS Activities Coordinating Office, Subaru and Pennsylvania Sen. Vincent Hughes’ (D-7th Dist.) office — and said he’s hopeful the local community will be just as responsive.

“I’m the eternal optimist, so I’m hoping that the city of Philadelphia will step up and come out and have dinner. You have to eat anyway, and this is a fun, easy fundraiser.”

For the complete list of participating restaurants or to make a donation, visit

Jen Colletta can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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