Coloradans stepped up in a big way for Project Angel Heart’s annual Dining Out For Life fundraiser on April 30. (The event was tweaked and dubbed Dining In For Life this year due to restaurant closures.) Considering that no one can actually dine out right now and the fundraiser typically relies on a portion of restaurant sales on the day of the event, Project Angel Heart’s expectations were modest. But locals came to the rescue, making private donations during the virtual event that tallied up to more than $190,000—well above and beyond the organization’s predictions.
“It was a huge day, much bigger than we expected originally,” says Amy Daly, director of marketing and communications for Project Angel Heart. “Our initial thought was, ‘Let’s see if we can make $50,000.’ We were really pleasantly surprised.”
Project Angel Heart makes and delivers medically tailored meals for people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer, and heart disease—community members that, if they weren’t already homebound, are certainly unable to leave their homes due to the threat of COVID-19. Dining Out For Life is the nonprofit’s largest fundraiser of the year, and the organization counts on the event to fund the 10,000 meals it delivers every week. But with restaurants struggling through their own time of need right now, Project Angel Heart didn’t want to ask them to donate 25 percent of event day sales as it has done in the past. Instead, the nonprofit planned to rely solely upon private donations this year and hoped that its restaurant partners would get a little extra business out of the day, too.
Some restaurants, like poke specialty spot Turtle Boat, chose to contribute 25 percent of sales anyway. “Our values align with Project Angel Heart’s mission to use food as medicine, and we began supporting them shortly after we opened our business,” say owners Darren and Jeremy Song, in an email. “Our parents are longtime small business owners; they set an example of being generous in supporting our community. Most importantly, they taught us that no matter how things are going, always remember and adhere to your principles and your humanity. If you are honorable, no challenge should force you to abandon who you are.”
While this year’s $190,000 is a huge success, the amount raised is still far less than what Project Angel Heart receives from a typical, non-coronavirus Dining Out For Life—last year’s event raised $360,000—so the organization will continue to need funding to keep its meals coming. “The need is going to be ongoing,” Daly says. “This isn’t going anyway anytime soon for the people we serve—coronavirus is especially dangerous for people who have pre-existing conditions. This is going be a long haul for us. But our community has been generous in a lot of different ways, so I’m optimistic.”