After two-year hiatus, Philly’s Dining Out For Life fundraiser for those affected by HIV relaunches

File photo: Food trucks line Locust Street at a 2016 Dining Out for Life pop-up. (Image courtesy of Laura Weber)

File photo: Food trucks line Locust Street at a 2016 Dining Out for Life pop-up. (Image courtesy of Laura Weber)

The annual night of dining out in Philadelphia to support services for people living with HIV is back in person this year after a hiatus during the pandemic.

Dining Out For Life has been a yearly event in Philly for three decades. Participating restaurants donate a percentage of their sales on the night of the event to Action Wellness, which provides services for thousands of adults and kids in the Philly region living with and affected by HIV.

Before the pandemic, the event raised $200,000 annually. But in 2020, organizers put the dining out part of the event on hold and took donations directly.

“From a fundraising perspective, it’s been devastating for us,” said Action Wellness Executive Director Kevin Burns.

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Money raised during Dining Out For Life is a small fraction of Action Wellness’ overall budget, Burns said, but helps fill funding gaps — particularly for the organization’s volunteer buddy program.

“Some of those volunteers go with clients to medical appointments,” Burns said.”They provide phone support, face-to-face support, help them with food shopping and transportation. There’s a whole range of things that those volunteers do that has a really significant impact on the bottom line for our clients living with HIV.”

Burns says the modified events over the past two years weren’t all bad. He says his organization learned new skills around hosting virtual events, and asked donors to order takeout.

“It was an opportunity for us to give back something to the restaurants and to try to support them through a difficult time,” he said.

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The event is back in full swing this year — with a date set for April 28. A list of participating restaurants is available on Action Wellness’ website. People who want to get involved can also sign up to be Dining Out For Life Ambassadors to help raise funds, or donate to the organization directly.

Dining Out For Life started in Philadelphia in 1991, and now happens in cities all over the country.

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