Food and drinks always taste just a tad bit better when you know your restaurant bill will help support people in need. On Thursday, April 26, more than 40 Houston-area restaurants will donate a portion of the day’s proceeds for the annual Dining Out for Life. This daylong event supports AIDS Foundation Houston’s programs that help thousands of Houstonians living with HIV/AIDS as well as prevention services that reduce new HIV transmissions.
Thanks to Gillman Subaru and the hard work of chairs Michael Pearce, Jessica Rossman and Travis Torrence, we all have a reason to try a new restaurant — or it gives us an excuse to go to our favorite spot for the umpteenth time this month. Rest assured, you won’t be the only ones doing it. Houston is only one of the 60 cities throughout the United States and Canada, with more than 3,000 restaurants, taking part in this yearly benefit.
With such a wide footprint, the day of charitable feasting has attracted the likes of four well-known representatives who each do their part to support this cause: Ted Allen, Pam Grier, Mondo Guerra and Daisy Martinez.
Grier was gracious enough to spend some time elaborating on why she feels this cause is so important.
“In the late '80s, no one knew what HIV was or how it was contracted. I have lost some friends who were in the industry due to HIV,” she said. “Fast forward to today, people are living with HIV because of modern medicine and the benevolence of others.”
The film and television star knows a little about living with an illness and the associated heavy burdens. In 1988, she was diagnosed with cancer and given 18 months left to live. Of course, she survived to tell the tale about her battle with cancer, and now she spends her time helping others.
She has mentioned in previous interviews that cancer is an equal-opportunity offender with no regard to race, religion, age or gender - much like HIV. Likewise, as with developments in cancer detection and treatment, breakthroughs with HIV/AIDS have led to much better health outcomes. AIDS is no longer the unnamed disease of the 80s. We are much more educated about how it is transmitted. Advancements in medicine and care are allowing HIV+ people to live full, healthy lives, and we are chipping away at the stigma of the disease.
Grier adds, “You can live with HIV and be smart with HIV. It's a new day, and one day it will be eradicated. I would like to see that in my lifetime because I don’t like seeing people suffer.”
Despite all the forward progress we have made in combatting the disease, much work still remains - a reality of which AIDS Foundation Houston is all too familiar. The organization’s website gives some startling statistics. Between 2006 and 2010, infections in Houston grew 10 percent. In 2013 there were 1,200 new infections in Houston which is more than San Francisco (359 new infections) and Dallas (768 new infections) in the same year.
Yet, if there are two things Houstonians do well, it’s dining and stepping up when our community needs us. Be it breakfast, lunch, dinner or just a quick dessert, the chance to grab some delicious food and also support the cause is too good to pass up.
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Dining Out for Life started 17 years ago, and Grier has served as a national representative for the cause for the previous eight years. She almost makes it a full time job to represent the cause. A resident of Colorado, she often will patron Dining Out for Life partner restaurants throughout the year.
“It gives me chills to go to a participating restaurant. I’ll sometimes see a group of people, and they’re ordering lobster and the most expensive drinks, and their paying using a business account,” she detailed. “I’ll saunter over and give them a card and tell them about Dining Out For Life. I tell them how if they participate, the restaurant will offer to help support the education [of] and eradication of AIDS. Just by ordering more lobster and more champagne, they will be helping our community. And guess what? They show up!”
So there you have it. Here’s our chance to chow down and feel good about it.
Dining Out for Life will take place across the city on April 26. For a list of participating restaurants, visit AIDSHelp.org/DiningOutforLife.