Awards Part of Group’s First-of-its-Kind “Virtual Ball”
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) recently conducted its annual awards and fundraising ball, despite the limitations caused by COVID-19.
OICA holds the annual Heroes Ball each summer to recognize those Oklahomans who have worked to improve the quality of life for the state’s youngest residents and to raise money for OICA’s ongoing mission of child advocacy.
This year’s Heroes Ball was unique in that it was the first attempt by a nonprofit organization in the nation to conduct a virtual event of this size with meal delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic. The event, according to OICA CEO Joe Dorman, exceeded all expectations; other nonprofits who are struggling to find ways to maintain operations in the new COVID-19 normal are considering the model as a means to continue their annual events.
“Our sponsors, donors, ticket purchasers, staff, and volunteers stepped up,” Dorman said. “We showed a statewide event like this could continue despite the impact of the pandemic. It was not easy, but when it comes to fighting for children, it is important to overcome any obstacle.”
During the ball, which was webcast live on the Zoom platform from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, several awards were presented, including five announced before the ball. Part of the excitement of the ball is the announcement of the Anne Roberts People’s Choice Awards, for which online voting remained open right up until the ball began. OICA annually presents two People’s Choice awards, one to an individual and the other to an organization working on behalf of Oklahoma’s children. The awards bear the name of Anne Roberts, the longest-serving executive director of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy.
The individual People’s Choice award winner was Ryan Abernathy of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma for his leading childhood hunger initiatives for the food bank and his continued advocacy for organizations and agencies who serve children.
Diabetes Solutions of Oklahoma was the winner of the organizational People’s Choice award for the organization’s commitment and support to families with children recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. The nonprofit teaches parents how to care for children with diabetes and gives educational opportunities to families through its summer camp programming and other social gatherings.
Awards announced before the ball included the “Gateway to Leadership Award for Public Service.” Former Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee and former Oklahoma First Lady Rhonda Walters received this award.
The Oklahoma Education Television Authority was named the organizational advocate of the year for its work helping to educate the state’s students during the COVID-19 school closures. Attorney Noble McIntyre was named the individual advocate of the year award.
The prestigious “Kate Barnard Perseverance Lifetime Achievement Award” went to Judge Doris Fransein, former chief judge of the Tulsa County Court’s juvenile division for 14 years.
“It was a great night for everyone logging on through Zoom and our award winners and finalists,” Dorman said. “OICA is deeply grateful to everyone who helped make it a success, including our partners at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. It was a night to celebrate Oklahoma’s youngest residents – our children – and everyone involved is committed to making ours a better state those for whom we work every day.”