25 years ago a “Gang of Four” (as they called themselves) got together to help their friends and neighbors who were struggling to make ends meet. In addition to the regular stresses of life, these particular friends and neighbors were also fighting HIV and AIDS. Back then, medicines and other necessities were a large financial strain for people who were positive. Seeing this, the Gang of Four realized they could do something to show they were not fighting alone. So Lew Aldridge, Linda McCarley, Tamara Chauncey, and Flint Sparks started the Octopus Club.
The idea was simple: Tell your friends to tell their friends to tell their friends that we are having a dinner; donate what you can; enjoy good food and great company; and at the end of the night everything that is in the donation jar goes to one of our positive friends who needs help this month.
Well, this simple concept has taken on a life of its own and is now celebrating its 25th birthday as the Octopus Club! This Gang of Four probably never imagined that their simple idea would reap huge benefits to those in need in our community . . . benefits in the amount of $2 million. And as the Octopus Club mantra goes: 100% of every single penny (of that $2 million) goes directly to someone with HIV/AIDS in central Texas via the Paul Kirby Emergency Assistance Fund at AIDS Services of Austin (ASA).
The Paul Kirby Fund is named after HIV/AIDS support trailblazer and founding board member of ASA, Paul Kirby, who understood the importance of financial support for persons who were positive. Because of the amazing growth of the Octopus Club, it is the only entity that supports this Fund that gives so much to so many. That means that ASA is able to do more with less by directing other monies to things such as the dental clinic, food pantry, direct client support services, testing and prevention, and the Capital Area AIDS Legal Project to name a few.
Numerous eye glasses, rental/utility payments, medicines, insurance assistance, and child care payments later, the Octopus Club, much like those who are positive, is thriving and going strong, 25 years and $2 million later. Anyone who has enjoyed an Octopus Club party knows they have Great Parties for a Great Cause. Well, this Sunday is their greatest cause: continuation of their mission.
Join the Octopus Club, which is still benefiting from Lew Aldridge’s guidance and enthusiasm, this Sunday, February 23, at Mexic-Arte Museum on Congress between 5th and 4th Streets from 5:30-8:30 p.m. as they celebrate 25 years and $2 million for the Paul Kirby Emergency Assistance Fund at AIDS Services of Austin. State representative and friend of Paul Kirby, Donna Howard will be speaking. Additionally, enjoy performances by Chaz Nailor and Pieter Crathorne; food by In Good Taste Catering; flowers by David Kurio; and bartenders by Oil Can Harry’s. Join Octopus Club as they celebrate two phenomenal milestones!