This year marks the 20th anniversary of Red Tie Night, hosted by the Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund (OACF) and founded by Jackie and Barbara Cooper in 1991.

Today, Red Tie Night is Oklahoma’s biggest single-evening fundraiser. At this year’s event, Gov. Mary Fallin will present the Coopers and other founding members with a commendation honoring their years of hard work and dedication.

Former NBA player and local artist Desmond Mason will serve as the chair of this year’s event.

Since its inception, the OACF has raised more than $10 million to help raise awareness of HIV/AIDS in Oklahoma. All of that money remains in the state and is used for HIV education, testing and support.

right Artist David Garabaldi

As the spread of the disease persists, Red Tie organizers note, the need for the fundraiser becomes all the more evident. According to the state Department of Health, HIV cases among Oklahoma’s Hispanic population have doubled over the past 10 years.

“People think that because there are many new meds out there that make you live longer, they’re bulletproof,” said OACF President Mary Streich. “The entire mission of the Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund is really to have an AIDS-free generation and to help educate people.”

Without volunteers, Red Tie Night would not be possible, as no paid event planners make it happen. Their work pays off, because the event long has been renowned among attendees as an evening of elegance.

Floral centerpieces mark each table, a gourmet dinner is served, and both a live auction and silent auction are held. Saturday’s entertainment will come from performance painter David Garibaldi and the music of Dr. Larry “T-Bryd” Gordon and the Music People Luv Band.

“I think the fundraiser is shining a light on the disease,” said Mason. “People need to educate themselves about AIDS and protect themselves.”

Photo by Shannon Cornman

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