The midweek slump is about to take a tasty turn for the better as legions of Ottawa residents prepare to do something so simple for charity: Dine out this Wednesday, April 26.
There are no tickets to buy, no speeches to endure and, best of all, no rubber chicken dinner to stare at. It's as easy as going out for dinner with friends, family and colleagues at one of 35 participating restaurants of the 19th annual A Taste for Life.
The businesses will give 25 per cent of their dinner sales that night to two charities, the Snowy Owl AIDS Foundation and Bruce House, both of which provide programs and services to people living in our community with HIV.
It's estimated that there are more than 3,000 people in Ottawa and as many as 76,000 in Canada living with HIV. Of those, just over one in five people don’t even know they have it, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Organizers and supporters gathered Wednesday afternoon for the launch at The Urban Element, an old fire station-turned-culinary studio on Parkdale Avenue.
Present was Carley Schelck, CEO of The Urban Element, which helped to showcase a delicious spread of food put on by Steph The Grilling Gourmet, Pelican Seafood Market and Grill, Absinthe Café, ThimbleCakes and The Hintonburg Public House.
Since A Taste for Life began in Ottawa, it's raised more than $1 million and has raised awareness over the importance of getting tested and of getting treated, if diagnosed. The fundraiser is also held in other communities in Canada, from Calgary to North Bay.
“AIDS awareness isn’t just for the gay man anymore,” said spokeschef Steph Legari. “It affects a lot of people. I think everybody’s been touched by it."
The fundraiser is a win-win for diners, restaurants and beneficiaries, said Pelican co-owner Jim Foster, who got on board a decade ago and has happily supported it ever since.
“It’s one of those nights where it feels like it’s a Saturday night. Everyone’s in a good mood. We've had times when it's super crowded but it's got a good vibe to it."
Attendees included Mayor Jim Watson, who was the mayor back when A Taste for Life began in 1999.
“It’s like I was kept in a time warp or something,” joked Watson (in fairness, he did take a 10-year break from municipal politics before returning in 2010). “Back then, life was a lot more challenging for people living with HIV/AIDS. There have been so many amazing (medical) discoveries, but we still can’t rest on our laurels. We still need the dollars to support those members of the community who are suffering, and their family members.”
A full list of participating Ottawa restaurants can be found at: http://www.atasteforlife.org/ottawa.html.