Atlanta Gay Bar Raises Money For Suicide Prevention

Midtown Moon has partnered with the Georgia chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to host one of the only weekly charity events in Atlanta – Birdcage Bingo Night with drag queen Ruby Redd.

Every Wednesday night in May and July, Midtown Moon hosted this event to benefit AFSP Georgia, with 100 percent of tips generated by the drag show entertainers going to the Georgia chapter of this nationwide organization. Combination themed bingo night and drag show, Birdcage Bingo Night isn’t the kind of bingo your grandma plays.

“It’s very adult content; the event is 21 and up,” Ray Matheson, the mind behind the drag persona Ruby Redd, told the Georgia Voice. “It’s all tongue-in-cheek and we get a huge crowd of both gay and straight people. It’s a different take on bingo than anything else going on in Atlanta.”

So far, Midtown Moon has raised more than $3,600 for AFSP Georgia, which Roland Behm, a member of the AFSP Georgia board of directors, told the Georgia Voice will help the organization address their four areas of expertise: education, support, research, and advocacy. Their current advocacy effort is working to secure passage of legislation prohibiting mental health professionals from performing conversion therapy.

To both Midtown Moon and AFSP Georgia, this partnership and raising both money and awareness on the sensitive topic of suicide is of immense importance.

“The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention was definitely an easy fit for us because it was something we could all get behind physically and emotionally,” Matheson said.

Marco Penna, the co-owner of Midtown Moon, said hosting charity events like Birdcage Bingo Night was one of his main goals when first opening the bar.

“One of the main things I wanted to do with Midtown Moon was engage more in charity events, get involved in the community, and help our neighbors,” he said. “I want Midtown Moon to be open for everybody to come in here and feel comfortable, and by doing a charity event like this one, people who have their doubts about their life can be in contact with someone from AFSP – who are on-site during these bingo nights – so it’s a big community thing for us here.”

For AFSP Georgia, the partnership was a no-brainer due to the high suicide rates seen among the LGBTQ community.

“For us it has been the perfect match because when we look at the LGBTQ community we look at a community that, like veterans and others, are experiencing suicide attempts at a rate higher than the general population,” Behm told us. “We want to raise awareness that a big part of high suicide rates is the lack of acceptance and minority stress that the LGBTQ community is exposed to even from a young age.”

While July’s installment of the fundraiser has ended, Midtown Moon will be picking Birdcage Bingo Night back up in September for National Suicide Prevention Month. Until then, though, there are many ways to get involved with AFSP Georgia.

“Reach out to us through our website or our Facebook page.” Behm said. “You can find links on both sites that talk about upcoming events, like our walks all over the state of Georgia that are designed to raise awareness and funds. Our Atlanta walk in Piedmont Park is coming up on the first week of November – last year we had 3,000-4,000 people and raised over $340,000.”

The goal of Birdcage Bingo Night is to raise funds, but it’s more than that; it’s also about connecting the community, raising awareness, and reaching out to those who may feel hopeless – and with literature on suicide prevention available to customers upon arrival, education and advocacy is available to those who may not feel comfortable talking to someone face-to-face.

“This framework not only raises money but also creates a sense of community,” Behm said. “Even it’s just one night a week, people can come together and not feel as alone.”