By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter .
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Oklahoma City performance artist Sonja Martinez will host her 29th Annual Christmas AIDS Benefit on Monday, December 9, at the newly remodeled Angles Club, 2117 N.W. 39 Expressway. Prime rib dinner will be served at 6 p.m. with entertainment beginning at 8 p.m.
All proceeds, including tips, will go to support The Winds House in Oklahoma City.
Performing with Sonja will be Roxie Hart, Bebe Adams, Rachael Leonhart, TeeKee LaRue and EJ St. James.
“I am so excited about the wonderful entertainers and the new club, “Martinez said. “The lights and sounds are amazing and the seats are all premium.
“I am so excited about my 29th Annual Christmas AIDS Benefit AIDS, supporting The Winds House,” Martinez said. “I have had the pleasure of having some of Oklahoma’s best entertainers with me throughout the years,” Martinez said. “They take time out of their busy holiday schedules to give the ‘Gift of Love’.”
Martinez began her own work to help support AIDS charities in 1991 after losing several close friends to AIDS.
When Jackie and Barbara Cooper were putting together Oklahoma City’s large Red Tie event after losing their son to AIDS, it prompted Martinez to start a smaller scale benefit for the gay community and hold it in a gay venue. She began hosting small dinner shows at Oklahoma City’s Gushers Restaurant located in the Habana Inn and asked other local singers to perform with her.
Over the past 28 years, the Christmas Benefit has raised over $208,800.00 for the AIDS cause.
During the first 17 years, the funds raised from Sonja’s events were donated to Loaves and Fishes, a Catholic Charities Meals on Wheels program. When Sister Gail Addis, who was active in that program, returned to Michigan, Martinez began donating to The Winds House in Oklahoma City.
“I choses the Winds House after much thought and several interviews 12 years ago. They are a dedicated group and the entire board are volunteers who keep the focus on the goal of helping the residents of their two houses/”
The program is led by Jon Martinez, President of Winds House.
The Board recently renovated their two houses located at 1707 NW 17th and 1725 NW 18th Streets. The Winds House and The Winds Family House are owned and operated by the AIDS Support Program, Inc. (A.S.P.), a non-profit, privately funded organization founded in the 1980’s.
The two residences are part of a transitional program for individuals with HIV/AIDS who are homeless or who are faced with the imminent threat of becoming homeless. The Winds House program offers residents a chance to develop skills, find employment, seek educational possibilities, and help in applying for SSA Disability.
“The Winds House gave us the option to focus our money on food, medication and other specific needs,” she added.
Colin Raley, Winds House Board Member said, “To say that I am looking forward to Sonja’s 29th Annual Christmas AIDS Benefit is an understatement. This event is the highlight of my holiday season. Sonja’s generosity has made a tremendous impact on the residents of the Winds House and The Winds Family House.”
Winds House board member Camden Maxwell said, “At this event, you really feel the holiday spirit and the generosity of our community.”
As a result of her many fundraisers and generosity toward the gay community, Martinez has been awarded numerous honors. She was given the Richard May Award established by the Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund in 2009, in 2012 she received the Cimarron Alliance Bill Rogers Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2017, she was honored as the OKC Pride Parade Grand Marshall.
“The event is not possible without a great deal of help from many people,” Martinez said. “I want to thank Nick Post for allowing me to follow him to the beautiful new Angles Club; Tony Foss continues to generously donate flowers for the event. And of course, the amazing talent for this event who help us all out that night… Roxie, Bebe, Rachael, TeeKee, and EJ.
“Finally, I want to thank my wife Dee, who always does a great deal of the background work to make the event happen,” Martinez said.
Tickets are $60 per person, which includes a $30 donation that goes to support the Winds House and $30 for the dinner buffet. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling or texting 405-229-0129.
To learn more about The Winds House, visit whokc.org.