Gay Atlanta doesn’t need a reason to party. Yet when it’s for charity, the rush to the dance floor gets frenzied. Enter Ready 4 Hope, which delivers a red hot party with a purposed this weekend.
The annual weekend of festivities starts Friday at Heretic, includes a Saturday stop at Jungle and stretches into the early morning hours of the weekend with two nights at Xion. Ready 4 Hope raises funds for AID Atlanta and this year comes powered by Scruff.
We caught up with Ready 4 Hope creator Mike Woodside (photo left) to chat about how the weekend comes together, what party-goers can expect, what the event brings to him, and how to best enjoy the weekend of partying for a purpose.
Tell us a little about you.
I started out as a walker for the AIDS Walk. It was a personal goal to raise more money than the year prior. It started growing and escalating. I decided to upgrade the type of events we were doing. We were doing beer busts at first, but we branded it Ready 4 Hope, made one party into a whole weekend and it started snowballing from there and getting bigger and bigger.
I wanted it to be called a different weekend to stand out, kind of like the Purple Party (in Dallas) does. We went to the Purple Party and thought we can do this in Atlanta. We kinda already are doing it. Let’s brand it. You just have to start off small and build it up. People will start traveling from out of town for this. People do come from other cities.
Tell us about your first event.
I wanted to do a different fundraiser than a beer bust. I rented a houseboat on Lake Lanier for 100 people. For $100, it included the drinks all day, the boat, the DJ, a T-shirt, goodies, a shuttle there and back. The event sold out in 20 minutes. The bus picked you up and dropped you off at the Heretic. I told Alan Collins, the general manger of the Heretic, that we should add on a kick-off party since you are letting us use your parking lot. Now we had a Friday party. If we are had a Friday party and a Saturday party, we should have a Sunday party and a closing event. Then Xion came and asked to have after hours there. Then we had this weekend.
How much has Ready 4 Hope raised?
This is the fourth year we have done this as Ready 4 Hope. Cumulatively, over the last three years we have raised more than $115,000, but this year we want $ 150,000. Proceeds are donated through the AIDS Walk Atlanta website, which goes to AID Atlanta.
Tell us about the key events over the weekend.
They are all dance events. Our Friday night is a party at the Heretic with DJ Brent Milne from Denver and we have two local DJs, Travis and Eric, at our after-hours at Xion. We have a DJ from New York, Ben Baker, at Paris on Ponce for our VIP event and then a local DJ, Seth Breezy, for our main event at Jungle. An international DJ closes down the weekend at Xion.
How do you get tickets?
On the ticket site, you select which party you want to attend. The VIP event is an exclusive event for 225 people. AID Atlanta has offered two Delta vouchers for travel to Europe at the event. Someone is going to win that; the odds are good.
What are your other events throughout the year?
Our other main big event on is the Bear-B-Q during Bear Pride at the Heretic. It’s kind of more casual, more social. Last year we had over 700 people there.
Why does the weekend benefit AID Atlanta?
I started off walking – a friend said you need to do this. I stuck with it and said I’d beat the year before. There are so many charities people are involved with. I felt like I wanted to stick with one. I have had friends ask why I am not raising money for cancer awareness when both my parents have passed away from cancer. It’s a good point. I started doing this when I moved here, and I feel like I would let people down if I stopped doing it and changed directions. Then it came more than a self competition, a goal. It’s really changing people’s lives. I have had many friends tell me they are HIV-positive after raising this money.
How would you describe your typical patron?
Loyal and fun – and male. We have about 98 percent men.
What is your favorite memory?
The first two years, we got to flip over the total amount we raised and that was a great memory. When people come up and tell us what a difference we are making. The DJ talent has been great to work with. And I have a great team of about 38 volunteers as well.
What’s the best way to get the most out of the weekend?
Be ready to dance and have a great time. It’s all for charity. If you are going out you are going to pay a door cover anyway; why not pay for a great cause?