AIDS Arms Santa Pub Crawl lets vols have fun for a good cause
In 16 years as a volunteer for AIDS Arms Inc.’s LifeWalk Steering Committee, Dave Gueth has seen his share of fundraisers.
But Gueth, the outgoing chairman of the Steering Committee, says the upcoming Santa Pub Crawl, even though it’s only in its second year, has already catapulted to near the top of the list.
"In terms of sheer fun, it ranks right up there in the 95th percentile," Gueth said. "There isn’t a lot of heavy pressure to give. Santa’s right there. You can sit in his lap if you need to, and you can even pick the lap you want to sit in."
This year’s Pub Crawl, set for Thursday, Dec. 10, will see Gueth and about 30 other Santas, reindeers and elves make the rounds on a rented party bus to 16 gay and lesbian bars in Dallas.
The entourage from the North Pole, made up mostly of LifeWalk Steering Committee members, spends about 15-20 minutes in each bar, collecting toys and donations, and having drinks and fun with staff and patrons.
The Pub Crawl is the brainchild of Margaret Byrne, director of development for AIDS Arms, but Byrne admits she stole the idea from the playbook of her son’s rugby team, the Hartford (Conn.) Wanderers, which conducts a pub crawl each year to raise money for multiple sclerosis.
Last year, Byrne said, AIDS Arms’ Pub Crawl raised about $2,500, and she’s hoping to double that this year.
"I’m thinking by next year, I’ll have to get a bigger bus," Byrne said, adding that anyone is welcome to volunteer for the Pub Crawl. "I would love next year to have to pull a U-Haul trailer behind us [full of toys]."
Byrne said the Pub Crawl was so well received last year, it generated a contingent of "Santa groupies" who followed the bus from bar to bar.
And people were so inspired that one group of bar patrons left to go to Target and caught up with the bus later to drop off toys.
"How funny to see like 30 Santas walking into the place, especially if you don’t know they’re coming and you’re just a patron in the bar." Byrne said. "You can’t tell Santa no."
All proceeds from the Pub Crawl, co-sponsored by Dallas Voice and the Dallas Tavern Guild, benefit the children of AIDS Arms.
Byrnes said like all AIDS service organizations, AIDS Arms is facing difficult times.
The number of people living with HIV/AIDS is steadily increasing in Dallas County, and more and more of the agency’s clients are unemployed and/or homeless.
On top of that, AIDS Arms has seen a drop in donations because people affected by the economy are less likely to give. "We’re kind of getting hit from all sides," she said.
Byrne said AIDS Arms has a total of 675 to 700 children, and the Santa Pub Crawl has already served more than 50 low-income families.
"It’s trying to make them feel like as normal of a kid as possible for Christmas, because they’re living with people with HIV/AIDS, so that’s difficult enough," she said.
If you’re interested in volunteering for the Santa Pub Crawl, contact Margaret Byrne at 214-521-5191 ext. 314 or e-mail email@example.com. The Pub Crawl will be at these location at the following times on Thursday, Dec. 10: 7 p.m. â€“ Club Rush; 7:15 p.m. â€“ Pekers Bar, 7:30 p.m. â€“ Hung Dinger; 8 p.m. â€“ The Hidden Door; 8:30 p.m. â€“ BJs Nxs; 8:45 p.m. â€“ Dallas Eagle; 9:15 p.m. â€“ Escandalo; 9:45 â€“ The Tin Room; 10:15 â€“ Kaliente; 10:30 â€“ Illusions; 10:45 â€“ Alexandre’s; 11 p.m. â€“ Woody’s; 11:15 p.m. â€“ Havana; 11:45 p.m. â€“ Mickey’s; midnight â€“ JR’s; 12:15 a.m. â€“ The Round-Up Saloon.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 4, 2009.