It’s been quite a journey for It’s been quite a journey for Oklahoma City-based singer/songwriter Graham Colton.
At age 34, the Heritage Hall graduate has released more than a dozen albums and EPs, dated American Idol Kelly Clarkson and performed with stars including Counting Crows, John Mellencamp and Maroon 5.
This fall, Colton turned his attention a little closer to home, to serve as co-chair of a reinvigorated Red Tie Night with his mother, Cindy Cooper-Colton. It was Colton’s grandparents, the late Jackie Cooper and his wife Barbara, who started Red Tie Night with a small group of volunteers back in 1991.
Following Cooper’s death in February, Colton and his mother knew they needed to step forward and continue the legacy their family started all those years ago.
“This is everything to me,” Colton says, “honoring not only my late grandfather, but my grandmother Barbara and their vision. My mom and I have literally had a front-row seat and a ‘behind-the-scenes’ view of Red Tie Night for as long as I can remember. I can’t guarantee we’ll have Jack’s talent on the phone trying to raise funds or Barbara’s grace in planning and organizing, but I can promise we’ll put every ounce of our hearts into carrying on the torch.”
Colton’s mother agrees, and is proud of the work her parents and the volunteers have done bringing attention to HIV/AIDS.
“With the help of funds raised each year, it has enabled education to be a top priority in bringing awareness to the understanding of those living with HIV/AIDS,” Cooper-Colton says. “Also, with the medical progress made over the years, the disease isn’t the epidemic it was 24 years ago. Every dollar raised at the event stays in Oklahoma. I think this has made a vast difference in the attitude people have today compared to previous years.”
“We’ll put every ounce of our hearts into carrying on the torch.” – Graham Colton
Indeed, HIV/AIDS was still a taboo subject when the Coopers formed the Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund and the subsequent crimson-cravat-themed fundraiser – but over the decades since, it has grown to be the social event of the year, raising millions of dollars for funding, research and education.
“My mother, Barbara, is very excited and proud we are co-hosting,” Cooper-Colton added. “It is extremely important to Graham and me that we continue the success my parents started in the fight against HIV/AIDS. No doubt, my father made a huge impact in the success of [the event]. The greatest way to honor my dad is to continue supporting Red Tie Night. This will be a fabulous evening that brings together a group of people who have giving hearts and want to make a difference in the lives of those affected by this disease.”
The event will be held March 5 at OKC’s Cox Convention Center, and is organized entirely by a small group of dedicated volunteers.
“We are excited about the new energy we can create in and around the event,” Colton continues. “That means new auction items, improving our social media and online messaging and of course, making sure we deliver hundreds of new guests.
“What an honor it is to co-chair this incredible event with my wonderful mother. It’s a new day for Red Tie Night, for our family and for this incredible cause.”