Article by Gina Myers

Feeling lucky?  For one night a little bit of Las Vegas will be coming to Saginaw Township's Magic Bean Cafe.  There will be poker, roulette, craps, and more.  And all the proceeds will go to benefit AIDS Walk Bay City/Midland/Saginaw.

Las Vegas Night is the brainchild of Ryan Vennix, a manager at the Magic Bean.  The twenty-three year old first got involved with the AIDS Walk in Detroit in 2006.  Last year, the Magic Bean took donations and was able to raise roughly $500.  This year, Vennix wanted to try something different.  "I came up with the idea while trying to find a way to get donations in this economy," he explains.  "I figured people may be more comfortable donating if they were having fun doing it.  And what is more fun than Las Vegas?"

In addition to the games, the $20 ticket will grant access to gaming chips, hors d'oeuvres, and a raffle entry.  There will also be a cash bar and a silent auction.  The money raised will go to BASIS, which locally provides HIV/AIDS education about prevention and free HIV testing and counseling.  This organization also provides a full food pantry, financial assistance, and mental health and substance abuse treatment for those living with the disease.

"Organizations like BASIS are much needed in our community, and they cannot do it alone," says Vennix.  "They need our continued support to do the amazing things they do.  HIV/AIDS is a real thing and is in every community, including our own.  Events like this give people living with the disease hope and inspiration.  It lets them know that we care and are here to help."

Vennix became passionate about this cause because he witnessed the mentally and physically devastating effects AIDS has.  He is surprised by how many people still do not know much about the disease.  "I still hear people saying you can get it from a kiss, or sharing a drink, or even skin contact.  I strongly believe educating people about this is essential.  Many people think this is a 'gay' disease, but it's not.  It can affect anyone."

The Magic Bean is hoping Las Vegas night will be a big enough success to make it into a yearly event.  Las Vegas Night will take place on Saturday, September 19th, at 7 p.m.  Tickets are available at the Magic Bean Cafe located at 5789 State Street.  For more information, call the cafe at 989-790-9495.

This year's AIDS Walk for the Tri-Cities will take place on Saturday, September 26th at Wenonah Park in Bay City.  For more information about the walk, contact Tom Brubaker at 989-894-2991, or visit

© Gina Myers, 2009