17th Dining Out for Life Tampa Bay benefits EPIC

ABOVE: Gulfport’s Funky Flamingo, a DOFL 17 participant. Photo via Facebook.

TAMPA BAY | The 17th annual Dining Out for Life Tampa Bay will be held April 27, once again benefiting Empath Partners in Care’s support for those living with HIV/AIDS in the region.

DOFL raises roughly $4.5 million for organizations throughout the U.S. and Canada each year, enlisting restaurants and more to donate a percentage of sales to nonprofits on specific dates. Over the last decade more than $425,000 has been raised in support for EPIC’s programs and services, including $41,400 in a more COVID-conscious 2021.

Nearly 40 restaurants and bars will participate in this year’s event. They’ll offer breakfast, lunch, dinner, cocktails and more via indoor and outdoor dining, takeout and delivery. They will each donate at least 10% of their sales to EPIC during specified hours, with some donating 50% and serving guests all day.

A portion of this year’s proceeds will also benefit EPIC’s inclusion in SMART Ride 19, the annual bicycle event which has raised nearly $14 million for Florida’s AIDS service organizations since 2003. This year marks the first time the organization will serve as a beneficiary.

“We want to thank everyone in advance to supporting Dining Out for Life,” EPIC Executive Director Joy Winheim says. “This fundraiser is an opportunity to contribute to a stronger community, both by spending time with friends and family (what better way than over a meal?) and by committing to support EPIC.”

“As people become more comfortable going out for breakfast, lunch or dinner we are very optimistic that we will see an increase in the number of people joining us for Dining Out for Life,” Empath Health Director of Affiliate Philanthropy Brooke Boccacino adds. She notes that volunteers are still welcome to participate as DOFL ambassadors and that restaurants can still sign up to help make a difference.

That’s why Funky Flamingo opted to participate this year, located at 1418 58th St. S. in Gulfport. For the first time, owner Anita McLaughlin will be donating 25% of the restaurant’s sales to DOFL in honor of Christopher Clark and Thomas Goodall, her late son and son-in-law who died last year.

The three opened Funky Flamingo in late 2020 and had previously supported DOFL as patrons. Before the husbands could do so as restaurant owners, Goodall died Feb. 25, 2021 at 36 and Clark died April 7 at 33 from cytomegalovirus.

Commonly known as CMV, the virus can be serious and fatal for those living with weakened immune systems, which they were. She hopes to raise awareness not only about the virus but for EPIC’s extensive health services.

“Last year Dining Out for Life was on the day of Chris’ funeral and I sat with a group of his buddies and said, ‘I’m going to do it,’” she recalls. “As bittersweet as it was, it was the right thing to do and I firmly believe that if I can help someone else not go through what I did, it will all be worthwhile.”

McLaughin adds that Funky Flamingo has great potential, something she hopes DOFL diners drop by to see. “It’s unique. It’s Gulfport. It’s welcoming,” she explains. “We love everyone and know love is love – that’s the bottom line. We need more of that in the world.”

In addition to the restaurant’s breakfast and lunch menu, the deli also offers local honey, jam and more. McLaughin notes that all items featured in their storefront will be included in their DOFL donation.

It’s supporters like Funky Flamingo that make DOFL such a special day, organizers share.

“While it may seem like a small gesture to go and have a meal, all those small gestures by our greater community add up to make a successful event,” Winheim says. “I look forward to seeing you out at the restaurants!”

Tampa Bay’s 17th annual Dining Out for Life will be held April 27. For more information about EPIC and this year’s event, including restaurant registration, visit DineTB.org. Learn more about Funky Flamingo at Facebook.com/FunkyFLamingoGPFL.

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