Dinner à la Heart brings families and friends together

Now in its 36th year, Dinner à la Heart represents a perfect marriage between two of San Francisco’s favorite things: incredible food and giving to a good cause. After all, what better way to support Institute on Aging’s work with older adults and adults living with disabilities than by celebrating in the city’s world-class dining with family and friends? And this year, Dinner à la Heart will also celebrate Dr. James Davis, a very special person who has done a great deal to support Institute on Aging and the community over the years.

What is Dinner à la Heart?

Dinner à la Heart gives Bay Area residents an opportunity to select from one of many chosen a Bay Area restaurant enjoy a unique dining experience, for either dinner or lunch, while supporting the Institute on Aging’s programs and services. Diners enjoy a prix-fixe meal along with wine and coffee or tea, for a price ranging from $85-$250 per person.

Inspired, then involved

Dr. Davis’ experience with Institute on Aging comes through Mt. Zion Hospital, where he was chair of the Mt. Zion Health Fund and was introduced to IOA through one of its board members. Hearing about IOA’s work, he says, “Got me very inspired to get more involved.” The more he worked with IOA, he says, the more he embraced its mission.

For more than a decade now, Dr. Davis has continued to support IOA as a member of its board; his internal medicine and rheumatology practice, his work with the Arthritis Foundation, and his work as a clinical professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco, are all worthy of recognition.

When Dr. Davis learned he was to be honored at Dinner à la Heart this year, he says he was “very flattered.” It’s a treat, he says, in part because the event is one that’s always been near and dear to his family.

“Starting when I first came back to San Francisco, my parents and my aunt were very active in IOA, and the whole family would gather together every year,” he says. “Then when I moved back to San Francisco, myself and my cousins as the next generation started coming. Now my kids and my cousin’s kids come. It’s this big family gathering every year now.”

Dr. Davis says Dinner à la Heart is a perfect example of what makes IOA special.

“That’s really part of the beauty of IOA, is this generation to generation connection,” he says. “Cable Car Caroling is great for that now, too. Multigenerational families have been coming to these events for years, and they have a wonderful legacy to them.”

Honoring the past, looking ahead

For an event that goes back nearly four decades now, it’s no surprise the planning and execution of the event is multigenerational, too. Sandra Simon, co-chair of the Dinner à la Heart Auxiliary Board, has been involved for 25 years, and her mother was involved for many years before that.

“My mother passed away in 1994, and one of her friends on the board called and said ‘you need to come on and take her place,’” she says. “I couldn’t say no!”

Simon says one of her favorite aspects of Dinner à la Heart is the connections it forges.

“There are people who are always together,” she says. “They’ll call to make a reservation for their group and instantly you remember them.”

Simon says she is particularly looking forward to honoring Dr. Davis.

“Oh, I’ve known Jim Davis since we were kids,” she says. “He’s been so involved and has given a ton to the community. Many of our supporters were his patients! Everyone thinks he’s a great guy, so it was an easy decision.”Dr. Davis will be honored and will speak at a special event at the Presidio Golf & Concordia Club that evening. A social hour begins at 6:30 p.m., with dinner to follow at 7 p.m.

Preparing for the occasion

Simon says planning for the event begins in August, and picks up steam in December, when the list of participating restaurants is finalized. Some of the restaurants have participated for years, but they always try to bring in new venues, as well. On the day of the event, Simon says, things get really hectic.

“We try to make it festive as part of the experience, so every restaurant gets decorations,” she says. “And we also bring them gifts from IOA’s day center’s program – they make notecards for this occasion. Then our ladies deliver all these items to the restaurants.”

As for the popularity of the event itself, Simon says it’s an easy sell.

“We’re asking people if they want to go out to dinner with their friends,” she says. “People say, ‘Yeah, why not?’”

For more information or to make a reservation, visit www.ioaging.org/calendar-events/dinner-a-la-heart, or please call 415-750-4141.

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