For the first time in 28 years, Oklahoma City will not have a Red Tie Night in 2020. The annual fundraiser by the Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund will instead be No Tie Night, held March 5 at the Park House event center in Myriad Gardens.
Lauren Sullivan, executive director of OACF, said Red Tie Night will return in 2021, but the organization has yet to make a decision about how often it will occur.
“Nonprofit organizations around the country are looking at an every-other-year approach to the big galas,” Sullivan says. “While it does save some money, the real benefit is in attracting new people. Tickets can be expensive, and that’s easier to manage every other year.”
Attracting new allies has always been a goal of Red Tie Night – and will be for No Tie Night, as well. Theodore Noel attended a Red Tie gala about 20 years ago. An Oklahoma City native, he went to the University of Idaho on a basketball scholarship and completed a social science degree. When he came back to OKC, he started an after-school program for children with behavioral issues.
“When we got into their homes and visited with their families, we learned that many of the kids had parents who were living with HIV/AIDS,” Noel says. “At the time, there were no culturally appropriate services working with the African-American community in terms of providing services to those living with HIV/AIDS.”
A friend invited him to Red Tie Night, and he made connections there that led to the formation of Guiding Right, a 501(c)3 organization that helps connect people living with HIV/AIDS to services, case management, testing and other tangible needs.
“The needs can be as basic as clothing, meals and employment,” Noel says. “We also provide case management, connections to medical treatment and care and resources for testing.”
Testing is trickier than the public realizes, Sullivan said. “A person can go to their general practitioner and tell them ‘I may have HIV,’ and they won’t test that patient,” she said. “If it were any other virus, they would test for it. It’s one of the reasons we put the ‘Get Tested’ button so prominently on our website.”
Funds raised by No Tie Night go to benefit its partner organizations, all of which are dedicated to serving those living with HIV/AIDS or providing education and awareness to the larger community. Visit okaidscarefund.com for more details.
“We’ve been doing this for almost 30 years and we still have an epidemic,” Sullivan says. “Oklahoma is one of only seven states nationwide still facing epidemic status, and according to recent data, an Oklahoman contracts HIV every 29 hours.”