The AIDS Foundation of Chicago commemorated World AIDS Day last month at the 13th Annual World of Chocolate gala. The decadent event – which featured 22 of Chicagoland’s top chocolatiers, chefs, and caterers – held in the Great Hall at Chicago’s Union Station welcomed over 1,100 guests who helped to raise $134,000 in support of the AIDS Foundation’s mission to develop and improve HIV/AIDS services; fund and coordinate prevention, care, and advocacy projects; and champion effective, compassionate HIV/AIDS policy.
“World of Chocolate is way of capping off a week of World AIDS Day awareness events,” said AIDS Foundation of Chicago President and CEO John Peller. “In so many ways, it’s a celebration of life and the fact that today we have incredible treatments for people living with HIV that have helped so many people live longer, fuller lives.”
He added that the evening is also a reminder that about half of the people living with HIV today are not getting access to the anti-retroviral treatments that they need in order to live a fuller longer life. “A central part our mission is connecting vulnerable people living with HIV to the treatment and care that they need.”
Seeing all the chefs and chocolatiers come together for the event was something that Peller loves to see when the World of Chocolate comes around each year. Event co-chair Jill Allread would agree. As one of four co-chairs, Allread discussed her involvement in planning this year’s soiree. Setting the parameters of the event, and more importantly, making World of Chocolate 2014 fresh and different for new and existing supporters was the task at hand.
Along with new committee members and several new chocolate vendors, the stakes were set higher for chocolatiers this year to deliver on helping to create a spectacular night for guests.
“This year we wanted to make things more high end and challenge the chocolatiers to do even more creative things,” said Allread. “You’ve seen everything from incorporating duck, scallops, and beef, to exquisite chocolate drinks and bourbons.”
Allread has a long-standing history with the AIDS Foundation. She was introduced to the organization 20 years ago through her work as a public relations professional. Over time, she has found that what makes the organization so successful is the staff’s efforts of building community through advocacy, awareness, and raising funds that go directly into service for the organization.
She also loves the diversity that is promoted. She excitedly pointed around to people of all walks of life in the room.
” You look around and you see middle-aged straight couples, interracial couples, gay, lesbian, trans, young, old….and they’re all enjoying themselves. Look around, everyone’s happy!”
The community the AIDS Foundation continues to build is diverse, but brought together by a shared value that Allread notes: the importance of making a difference. The foundation is looking to foster this value in the coming year.
Peller said that in the year ahead, the AIDS Foundation is focused on “harnessing the power of modern anti-retroviral treatment to impact the epidemic.”
According the Peller, through pre-exposure prophylaxis (also known as PrEP), people who are vulnerable to HIV can take a daily medication and have their risk of HIV infection reduced by upwards of 90%.
“In this past, it was a dream that people could take a pill to prevent HIV. So making PrEP available to more people is one of our aims for the coming year.”
Peller further stated that the organization will be harnessing the power of the Affordable Care Act to extend treatment to more people “so that they can live more stable or fuller lives.”
Guests indulged in a plethora of chocolate-infused creations that were judged by a celebrity panel of local and renowned Chicago area chefs. The following were crowned winners as the best of five categories:
Best Sweet Award for tastiest sweet treat went to Uptown Brownie;
Best Savory Award for tastiest savory treat went to Mercat a la planxa;
Best Libation Award for tastiest drink concoction went to Intercontinental Hotel;
Best Business Class, Small Business Award for the small business with the tastiest treat went to Life’s Sweeter Side;
Best Business Class, Large Business Award for the large business with tastiest treat went to The Peninsula Chicago;
People’s Choice Award for guests’ overall favorite chocolatier went to ZED451.
The night also included a raffle with prizes, including luxury vacations to New York and Los Angeles, and gift certificates to 12 of Chicago’s best restaurants.
For more information about World of Chocolate and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, visit www.aidschicago.org. The site has recently relaunched and showcases everyone fro clients and residents of housing for HIV to board members who have been involved for decades!