Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund gets revamped 

Chair persons and board members for the Oklahoma Aids Care Fund and Red Tie Night, from left, Graham Colton, his mom, Cindy Cooper, and New Director, Cher Golding, 11-3-15. - MARK HANCOCK
  • Mark Hancock
  • Chair persons and board members for the Oklahoma Aids Care Fund and Red Tie Night, from left, Graham Colton, his mom, Cindy Cooper, and New Director, Cher Golding, 11-3-15.

Earlier this year, Oklahoma City lost one of its larger-than-life businessmen when auto dealer and philanthropist Jackie Cooper died. His death came one week before the annual Red Tie Night event, a fundraiser he, his wife Barbara and a small group of volunteers started in 1991.

In the months since, leadership at Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund (OACF), the umbrella organization for Red Tie Night, has worked to reinvent the gala and the nonprofit. Cher Golding was hired as its new executive director, and Cooper’s daughter and grandson, Cindy Cooper-Colton and Graham Colton, co-chair a reinvigorated gala.

“This really is the premier party in Oklahoma City. I am excited to work with Cindy and Graham on elevating the fun, party atmosphere of Red Tie Night while we carry on the vision of Jackie and Barbara,” Golding said. “We always have a number of celebrities, political figures and sports icons, and with Graham and his musical connections, I expect we will have a few new celebrities this year.”

Raising awareness

Golding started work Nov. 2 and brought with her more than 20 years of fundraising, public relations and marketing experience.

For the past several years, she was Oklahoma City Community Foundation’s community program coordinator and is former executive director of Mental Health Association of Central Oklahoma.

“What I want to do in my new position is raise awareness of both OACF and Red Tie Night,” Golding said. “This is such a wonderful organization that helps so many of our neighbors throughout Oklahoma.”

Golding said it’s vital to rebrand Red Tie Night. The funds it raises each year are the lifeblood of the partner organizations that work one-on-one with their clients.

“The next generation of the Cooper family taking over is a great time for a younger crowd to get involved,” Golding said. “We want to expand the exciting atmosphere so even more people can come out and enjoy the party.”

Fostering community

Colton said it is indeed a new day for his family as it honors his late grandfather and his grandmother and the pioneering efforts they made during a time when talking about the impact of HIV and AIDS was still taboo.

“My mom and I are so excited about all this new energy. I was very young when my grandparents started Red Tie Night, so I have had a front-row seat watching it grow into the incredible event it has become,” Colton said. “Like music, I have to find my voice and how to communicate the need and struggles in this new era of HIV and AIDS. But we are very thankful to our patrons who have supported this cause all these years. We want them to know how much it means not only to our family, but to the many Oklahomans who benefit from this event.”

Colton’s mother agreed and said she knew it was time for her to help continue her family’s legacy.

“My mother, Barbara, is very excited Graham and I are co-hosting Red Tie Night. It’s very important that we have a fun, successful evening but also bring an inspiring energy that leaves everyone uplifted,” Cooper-Colton said. “We want everyone to celebrate the success of this beautiful event and continue the work my parents started in the fight against HIV and AIDS.”

The 24th annual Red Tie Night is March 5 at Cox Convention Center, 1 Myriad Gardens. Learn more about the organization and event at okaidscarefund.com or by calling 348-6600.

Print Headline: Family custom, Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund and its annual Red Tie Night gala find new leadership and a reinvigorated voice.

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Mark Beutler

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