Dining with Friends pool party 

A Day at the Pool: The red ribbon t-dance pool party raised $14,000 last year for Lowcountry aids services and is shooting for 15K this may 3

Dining with Friends
For info on participating:
Lowcountry AIDS Services
(843) 747-2273 ext. 206
www.aids-services.com/dwfinfo.html

Drew English and Philip Bradley had a few friends over for an afternoon pool party on Johns Island last year ... and raised $14,000 to benefit Lowcountry AIDS Services while they were at it.

That's quite a splash.

Parties are going on all over town each year when Dining with Friends rolls around. Now in its 16th year, this mega-fund-raiser is easily one of the most recognizable events on the social calendar. Expect 80-plus parties on and around May 3 this year, with themes ranging from black tie to backyard barbecue, enough to exhaust even the most ambitious party crawler.

Lowcountry AIDS Services makes the recipe for Dining with Friends simple: those planning to host a party are provided with pre-printed party invitations, red ribbons, posters, and party tips. Donations arrive with each guest, everyone has a fun time, and a good cause gets some much-needed assistance.

The Dining with Friends grand finale at the Charleston Maritime Center is a dessert and champagne extravaganza, with coffee and music to get you shakin' it out on the dance floor.

But how do you top a $14K pool party? At first, Drew, Philip, and their closest friends — we'll call them "The Southern Boys" — put their minds to it and hatched a great plan: lure Dixie Longate down from off-Broadway, ask her to gather up her Tupperware, and ... oh, wait ... a schedule conflict? Dining with Friends is May 3 and Dixie can't make it to Charleston until June 11?

Well ... dang.

Okay, plan B: host an even more spectacular afternoon pool party, a real Red Ribbon T-Dance worthy of the name in time for Dining with Friends, with the goal of exceeding last year's donation by at least a good thousand and then host a second event when Dixie is in town in June.

"We're really excited to bring Dixie to Charleston," says Drew. "Last year, Dixie just finished a long off-Broadway run in a theater in New York and has since taken Dixie's Tupperware Party on a nationwide tour. Even better, although it won't be part of Dining with Friends, the proceeds from the show will still go to Lowcountry AIDS Services."

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"This is our fifth year hosting a Dining with Friends event. It started off as just a small party with our friends. We would actually get together early in the day, then all break off and go to individual dinner parties, and finally all meet up again at the after party at the Maritime Center."

Each year, more and more friends attended, and the small gathering began to include a silent auction and raffle. "That's what really boosted our donations to Lowcountry AIDS Services," he adds. "Local artists and retail shops from all over Charleston contribute. It's gotten to be a very popular part of the party."

The Southern Boys team jazzed up the donations kitty by following the basic precept of Dining with Friends: throw the kind of party that you yourself would love to attend. The Red Ribbon T-Dance is your basic pool party with plenty of margaritas, hors d'oeuvres, and music to ensure a good time.

Part of their success is due to the dedication and effort put into organizing the event. "It's a list too long to mention," Drew says. "So many of our personal friends have contributed to this and the donation goes to Lowcountry AIDS Services in all our names."

The Southern Boys didn't always see such amazing numbers, of course.

"Our own party grew from maybe 40 people attending in 2005 to closer to 100 in 2006 and more in 2007," Drew says. "We don't ever want to put a cap on it — we'd love to grow it as large as we possibly can. Until we can't fit any more people or until it gets beyond our control, we're going to continue to make it grow."


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