Digging deep for Dining Out For Life

Even faced with the tough economic times of late, it looks like people are still willing to dig deep and pay for a meal out. Hey, you've gotta eat, right? People throughout the province seemed to adopt this matter-of-fact attitude last week in honour of the 16th annual Dining Out For Life event held in Vancouver and Whistler.

The annual fundraiser actually takes place all over North America in support of people living with HIV and AIDS. But here in B.C., the event has grown to include more than 230 restaurants stretching from the Lower Mainland up to Sea to Sky country. This year a record number of restaurants signed up to take part.

The fundraising model sees participating restaurants donate 25 per cent of sales from a set night (in this case, it was last Thursday, March 25). Stella Artois donated $1 from every bottle sold that day and Sumac Ridge is donating $1 from every single bottle of wine sold at BCLC locations for the entire month of March.

This year, organizers were aiming to raise $200,000, which will be split evenly between two organizations: A Loving Spoonful and Friends for Life.

Sheena Sargeant is executive director of Vancouver's Friends For Life Society, which offers support to people living with life-threatening illnesses likes HIV/AIDS. The society is founded on the belief that no one should face a serious illness alone, offering a broad range of complementary and integrative therapies through programs like massage/body work, yoga, Naturopathic and Traditional Chinese Medicine, a nutrition/meals program and care for individuals confined to their homes.

"We've always had a tremendous amount of support, especially in downtown Vancouver's west end, in the queer community; they've always stayed really strong with us," Sargeant said. "But we've definitely seen a ton of growth in the outlying regions more recently."

A Loving Spoonful provides free, nutritious meals to people living with HIV/AIDS in Greater Vancouver. In the last year alone, the organization has provided over 100,000 meals, which are delivered weekly by a team of volunteers. They operate five distinctive meal programs, ensuring that each client receives a service that best suits their needs.

This year, organizers put a lot of effort into promoting the event through social networking on Twitter and Facebook. As a result, the majority of the venues were packed the night of the fundraiser.

"We couldn't believe the response that that got," Sargeant said.

"We've never quite had a link, in terms of technology, to see the amount of people that support the event, and this year through a lot of social networking we were more in touch with that and we were definitely thrilled to see people respond online and also to hear that restaurants were pretty much sold-out that night," she added.


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