Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund transitions to donor-advised fund

The Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund was founded in 1991 by Barbara Cooper following the death of her son to AIDS.  She enlisted the help of her husband Jackie and a small group of friends and organized what would become the state’s single-largest annual fundraiser, Red Tie Night. 

Over the past 30 years, OACF has raised more than $25 million for the HIV community in Oklahoma, enabling the organization to provide grants to community agencies as well as direct financial assistance for individuals living with HIV/AIDS who are most in need. 

During that time, the HIV/AIDS epidemic changed dramatically. What was once considered a death sentence is now a chronic illness that can be controlled with access to the right combination of medication and supportive services. In response, the OACF board of directors has been thoughtfully considering the organization's role in the ever-changing epidemic to ensure OACF can continue to support the HIV/AIDS community in Oklahoma for the next 30 years and beyond.  

Beginning July 1st, OACF will transition from a standalone 501(c)(3) charity organization to a donor-advised fund under the management of the Communities Foundation of Oklahoma. This will allow OACF to continue providing financial support to front-line HIV service organizations while also reducing our internal overhead.

"The Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund is not just the legacy of our family, it is the legacy of Oklahoma's brave fight against a devastating disease,” said Graham Colton, the Cooper’s grandson and OACF board member.  “This new organizational structure will allow OACF to continue our fight for a world without AIDS.” 

Founder Barbara Cooper agrees that changing with the times is the best course of action.

“My son Jerry told me once that he would read obituaries of his friends who had died of AIDS and it would list some other cause of death,” said Barbara Cooper.  “‘We are never going to be rid of this disease until we quit doing this,’ he said.  When I founded OACF, one of my goals was to bring awareness and help reduce stigma.  Over the last 30 years, I think we have done that.

“I am very proud of the work we have done and humbled by the generosity of those who have worked so hard and contributed so greatly,” Cooper added.  “On behalf of Jack, and all the volunteers who worked alongside us, and to all the patrons of Red Tie Night, I want to express my heartfelt thanks. I think our son would be proud of what we have accomplished.  I am grateful the work we started so many years ago will continue in this new chapter.”

Those wishing to support the mission of the Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund can send donations to the Communities Foundation of Oklahoma at: cfok.org/oacf or trosecrook@cfok.org.

The Gayly. 6/3/2020 @ 9:43 a.m. CST.