When it comes to a passion for Tulsa CARES, the chairs of the upcoming Red Ribbon Gala credit the late Charles Faudree.
Toni Garner of Toni’s Flowers & Gifts in Tulsa serves as honorary chair of this year’s gala. She doesn’t remember when in the 1990s she began supporting Tulsa CARES, but she recalls, “It was all because of Charles Faudree, who told me, ‘You’re coming with me.’”
The Red Ribbon Gala raises money to support the projects of Tulsa CARES, an organization that provides support to individuals and families in Northeastern Oklahoma affected by HIV/AIDS.
Brian Hughes, showroom manager of SR Hughes in Tulsa, is event chair of the 2015 gala. He says Faudree was not only a lifelong friend to his grandmother, but he was also Hughes’ business landlord early in his career and a source of inspiration and information.
“I’d wrongly thought that HIV/AIDS was something that we, as a society, had covered because, today, you can still live even if you have the virus as long as you get the medicine,” Hughes says. “But, I have come to find out we don’t have it covered at all.
“In Oklahoma HIV infection is on the rise; and among developed nations in the world, the U.S. ranks near the bottom in preventing HIV infection,” Hughes says. “We need more help for those in our community suffering from this disease, and the Red Ribbon Gala is a great vehicle to raise awareness.”
The Red Ribbon Gala began in 1999 as a small affair that about broke even its first year, says Shannon Hall, executive director for Tulsa CARES.
“In the second year, we raised $7,000, and now we net about $400,000 per year; and that provides our operating costs,” says Hall. “We have a capital campaign also and are set to break ground in early 2015 for our new site to be called The Charles Faudree Center.”
Hughes says he is excited to get more involved at a time when the organization is on the brink of doubling its capacity of service from 500 to about 1,000. Work on the Charles Faudree Center will begin when the required $2.5 million has been raised to fund its construction. Supporters have met about 90 percent of that goal.
Hughes credits the Tulsa CARES staff and board for its leadership in helping HIV/AIDS patients and their families with such assistance as housing, food, prescriptions, transportation and emotional support.
“I’m lucky to have joined in when this is poised to blossom into the kind of organization our community needs it to be,” Hughes says. “It’s a beautiful story for the past 25 years of helping clients that continues to grow.”
Gala tickets and sponsorships are available. Patron levels start at $500 per ticket, while sponsorship levels include a range of ticket and table seating packages.
“I also love that it’s just a big party with dancing and people having fun,” says Hall.
For all the fun, there’s still a message and a mission.
“We have an amazing party planned with the gala,” says Hughes. “And through that, we want to help educate the community at large while helping the people depending on our services.”