A GoPride Interview

Wes Walker & Donnie Morey

Wes Walker & Donnie Morey interview with ChicagoPride.com

Tue. February 17, 2009  by PJ Gray

Wes Walker & Donnie Morey

wes walker and donnie morey co-chairs for the aidscare gala

Why celebrate Mardi Gras when Samedi Gras is so much better? (That’s “Fat Saturday” for all of you non-Francophiles.)

Entering its twelfth successful year, AIDSCare’s largest annual fundraising event Fat Saturday Ball will be held February 21, 2009. Tickets are still available, and this year’s Co-Chairs, Wes Walker and Donnie Morey share with ChicagoPride both their thoughts about the rewards of volunteering and the skinny on this infamously spectacular event.

Q: How long have you been involved with the AIDSCare organization?

A: (Wes Walker) I have been involved with AIDSCare for about 15 years.

Q: What circumstances prompted your initial involvement with the organization?

A: (Wes) I originally started volunteering at the organization’s first residential facility at Barry Avenue and Lake Shore Drive. I worked in the kitchen one night a week where I helped to prepare, serve and clean after dinner. It was very hands-on, and at the time, that was important to me. That was the early 1990's when the AIDS crisis was all around me and I was looking for a way that I could help. Besides the weekly kitchen help, I eventually began doing other things with the organization such as coordinating volunteers, planning fundraisers and working on (and riding in) the initial Twin Cities—Chicago AIDS Ride.

(Donnie Morey) Wes and I have known each other for over 25 years. While Wes volunteered for the AIDSCare residence, I would occasionally attend the Fat Saturday Ball with him, and also got to know Jim Flosi and several other AIDSCare staff during this time. In 2003, Jim asked us if we would be interested in handling the décor for the Fat Saturday Ball “Carnival” which was being held at the Hancock Building. Since Wes and I have a history of throwing really fun parties (We were both social chairman at our fraternity for many years.) and since I have a passion for floral design, we jumped at the chance. We thought we would have a lot of fun “doing” the party and at the same time give something back to a wonderful organization. The event was successful and we were asked back the following year to provide visual and floral décor for Fat Saturday Ball “Venice” in 2004. The next few years we “stayed friends” with AIDSCare, but were not involved with any more Fat Saturday Balls because the organization had hired an event coordinator. We did, however, continue our volunteer work with them by supporting and hosting Dining Out for Life, Bar AIDS and Parties for Life.

Q: Is this your first year to co-chair the event?

A: (Donnie) Jim asked us if we would be interested in being co-chairs for last year’s event. We agreed, and helped take the ball, “Naughty Pleasures,”to a new level of success. This year, Wes and I are again co-chairing and are certain that this event will be the most exciting to date

(Wes) Yes, we were really excited to help and had BIG IDEAS of what we hoped the event could be.

Q: The event's theme this year is "Nocturne." It sounds risqué. What should attendees expect from this event?

A: (Wes) It is a sexy, dress as you like, buffet dinner, open bar, circus environment. Entertainment everywhere you look... a fun-filled night of debauchery. Last years' theme, "Naughty Pleasures," was such a success that we have continued the risqué idea with "Nocturne."

Q: Why has this event become more popular and successful every year and why does it stand out from other charity benefits?

A: (Wes) We have begun to draw a new, hip but fun crowd. However, one of the successes that we are most proud of is that truly ALL of our guests had an absolute blast last year - old, young, gay, straight, corporate sponsors, individuals, married couples, gay groups, and family. Literally, everyone was raving about what a great time it was. And it will be again this year! With hundreds of entertainers, Chicago's top designers, lighting companies, musicians, incredible sponsors like Google, Orbitz, Bacardi/42 Below, and many others, we are going to have an amazing night. There is even an after-party hosted at Dunlay's on the Square immediately following the event—just a couple of blocks from the venue, Stan Mansion, in Logan Square.

(Donnie) We are certain that this year’s event will be the most exciting to date! We are really proud of the time and energy we put into the event & look forward to raising much needed funds for such a deserving organization.

(Wes) I agree. AIDSCare is one of the most respected AIDS Service Organizations in the country, and the Fat Saturday Ball helps keep it that way.

Tickets for AIDSCare's Fat Saturday Ball are still available! For more information volunteering and ticket sales call Sondra Morin at 773-359-0122 or go to www.aidscarechicago.org/fatsaturdayball .

Interviewed by PJ Gray