Dine out, fight AIDS

More than 200 restaurants in the area will open their doors next week for a dining experience that offers more than just food.

The 21st annual Dining Out for Life will be held at eateries throughout the region April 28, with one-third of the food sales at each locale donated to Action AIDS.

Kevin Burns, executive director of Action AIDS, said organizers are hopeful the event will net $200,000, which will assist the agency in providing its array of critical services to the HIV/AIDS community.

Dining Out for Life will be hosted in 55 cities throughout the United States and Canada, with an international fundraising goal of $4 million, although funds will stay in the city in which they were generated.

Although restaurant sales have been hit hard by the recession, Dining Out for Life was able to sign on several new participating restaurants this year, Burns said.

“We’ve been working with our partners in the different counties and [Action AIDS Director of Development] Michael Byrne and the staff on the development team have been really working hard to educate new restaurants about the advantages of participating, which I think has been very effective,” Burns said. “In Philly, it’s always an easier sell than in other areas because the restaurants here are so familiar and really get it and many have had a number of staff over the year affected by HIV, so they’re eager year after year to step up.”

Restaurants span the entire city, as well as the suburbs and Southern Jersey, and Burns said diners can find something to satisfy any palate.

“It’s really diverse,” he said. “They’re all over the city — we have them in West Philadelphia, North Philadelphia, Center City. Some smaller restaurants are doing a lunch menu and then others are doing dinner, and it’s a real different mix of cuisines.”

Diners also have the chance to make a donation beyond their meal cost and, those who contribute more than $25 will receive a 20-percent discount to be used at the restaurant any Tuesday throughout the rest of the year.

All diners will also have the opportunity to enter a drawing for an Apple Vacations trip for two to Punta Cana, Cancun or the Dominican Republic.

Burns said Dining Out for Life is a chance for supporters of the HIV/AIDS community to offer a simple, but meaningful, gift.

“It’s a real opportunity to come out and do something that’s fun. You can go to a restaurant you’ve never been to before and learn more about the restaurant community in Philadelphia. It’s the easiest fundraiser in the world because all you have to do is come out and eat.”

For more information or a full listing of participating restaurants, visit http://actionaids.org/events/dining-out-life.