As we move past the legislative session and into the summer months, the team at the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy has had the privilege of working with two successful youth programs: OK-LEAD and Hoops 4 Heroes.

This most recent OK-LEAD program brought together tribal youth from across the state for one day to meet in conjunction with the Sovereignty Symposium, a forum which examines issues impacting the 39 sovereign nations located within our state boundaries. Students at OK-LEAD met to share stories and discuss issues ranging from tribal and state laws which impact the youth of the state, along with a history of treaties impacting tribal members. One issue that students were extremely engaged in was the importance of respecting tribal traditions when it comes to youth activities, including school graduations. For example, some schools ban the wearing of an eagle feather at graduation. We will be discussing that topic more at our Fall Forum in October, so stay tuned!

OICA also helped orchestrate the pilot program for Hoops 4 Heroes, a national nonprofit that is working to start basketball camps for the children of incarcerated parents in NBA cities across the United States. Nineteen young athletes participated in the program, joining an existing camp associated with the Oklahoma City Thunder. They also attended special events just for them focused on team-building and empowerment. The Hoops 4 Heroes kids also played in an exhibition game between the Oklahoma City Police and Fire Departments (Congrats to the police, who took home the trophy!). Hoops 4 Heroes was started by two 14-year-olds, Robert Goeas and Vinnie Nicholson, and it was very inspiring to see young people display such a commitment to helping their peers. 

With OK-LEAD and Hoops 4 Heroes concluded, OICA is now focusing on our summer activities, which includes our annual gala, the Heroes Ball (and the accompanying “kids only” party: the Sidekicks Ball). One of the reasons for hosting these parties is to celebrate our annual award winners, who I am pleased to announce today. 

The Kate Barnard Perseverance Award for lifetime achievement will be presented to the family of Judge Lisa Tipping Davis. Judge Davis, who recently passed away due to cancer, was the presiding juvenile judge for Oklahoma County and had a distinguished career in public service, especially for helping young Oklahomans. Lisa’s children will be present to accept her award at the banquet, to be held on Friday, July 26.

The Sonic Commitment Award will go to the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth, the program which has investigatory oversight over state programs relating to child well-being. OCCY is celebrating their 35th anniversary this year and was created as a result of the Terry D. Lawsuit, the same case which created OICA.

The soon-to-be named award for individuals of the year will be given to Karen Waddell, the president and CEO of the Lynn Institute, who was also instrumental in organizing Count Me in 4 Kids, the collaborative effort to help children’s nonprofits in central Oklahoma. Karen and her team are implementing a youth directory for services, which will benefit all Oklahomans as they seek aid for our youngest state residents.

Our Gateway to Leadership Award, presented by Gateway First Bank, will be given to two former state representatives who have continued their careers in service. Laura Boyd and Ron Peters, two champions for children who had distinguished careers in creating policy to benefit children in need, will both be honored at the Heroes Ball for their dedication and commitment.

Finally, we are also still taking nominations for our Anne Roberts People’s Choice Awards, so please make your nominations at oica.org to ensure we recognize those deserving for their work for Oklahoma’s children!