By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
The Jackie Cooper family will host the 24th annual Red Tie Night on Saturday, March 5 at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City. Through The Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund (OACF) the gala will begin with cocktails at 6 p.m., followed by a silent and live auction and dinner.
“I have had a front-row seat watching Red Tie Night grow into the incredible event it has become,” said Graham Colton, grandson of OACF founders the late Jackie Cooper and his wife Barbara.
“My grandparents were pioneers, in a way, because they saw the need for this fundraiser at a time when talking about HIV/AIDS was still taboo.”
Colton is chairing this year’s Red Tie Night with his mother, Cindy Cooper-Colton, both members of the OACF board.
“My grandfather Jack always made sure everyone knew how important it was to provide these funds to our community and our state,” Colton said. “Today, in his absence, my mom and I are bringing Red Tie Night full-circle back to the Cooper family, continuing the work my grandparents started. The need for funding is still there—perhaps even more than it was in the early days of this disease.”
The evening includes dancing with music from Dr. Larry ‘T-Byrd’ Gordon and the Music People Luv Orchestra.
Participants will have the opportunity to bid on auction items such as tickets for 4 to see Adele in concert, or a package that includes round trip airfare for 4 to New York City with tickets to the Broadway musical Hamilton, plus dinner at Soho House restaurant.
This year’s recipient of the prestigious Richard May Award is Mary Arbuckle, executive director of Other Options, Inc., which provides services for people with HIV/AIDS including the Friends Food Pantry and housing assistance.
“My work at Other Options is nothing less than what comes from my heart.” Arbuckle said. “I treat my clients as if they are part of my family. They know they will be treated with respect and a warm smile when they walk through the doors.”
This year the OACF has added an “After Party,” which will immediately follow Red Tie Night. Beginning at 10:30 p.m., the après event will be held at Angles Nightclub, 2117 NW 39th Street.
Chad Michaels, the nation’s number one Cher impersonator and winner of season one “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars,” will perform along with other local acts. The dance floor opens at 12 a.m. featuring DJ Kamiko.
The OACF was organized by Barbara and Jackie Cooper following the death of their son to AIDS. This tragic loss compelled them to reach out to others living with HIV/AIDS and those vulnerable to the disease. Their friends, Toni Wizenberg, Steve Daniels, Richard May, Patricia Edwards and James Vallion formed the founding board.
“My mother, Barbara, is very excited Graham and I are co-hosting Red Tie Night,” said Cooper-Colton. “We promise our guests will have a fun, enjoyable evening, but we are also bringing an inspiring energy that leaves everyone uplifted.
“We thank those who have supported this cause for so many years. We want everyone to celebrate the success of this beautiful event and continue the work my parents started in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” she added.
Funds raised at Red Tie are used as grants to agencies providing services to those living with HIV/AIDS. All proceeds remain in Oklahoma.
Since its inception in 1991, the OACF has worked to help provide system support to individuals and groups offering education, research and direct services to fight HIV/AIDS throughout the state.
Additionally, an emergency assistance program is run directly by the fund to help with utility, rent and medical needs of HIV/AIDS patients and their families
Red Tie contributions also provide mental health and substance abuse services; aid to reduce homelessness, particularly for teen and transitional youth; suicide prevention; and access to food pantries, meal delivery, free or low-cost heath care, transportation and legal services.
To purchase tickets, or for more Information, call 405-348-6600, or visit www.okaidscarefund.com.