Special to The Sun
It was a night of peace signs, celebration and Elmo. Rainbow Fleet’s 40th anniversary Ruby Jubilee was Oct. 21, at Castle Falls Event Center in Oklahoma City.
It was an energetic combination of art, music, raffle and door prize giveaways, along with a much anticipated hour-long conversation with Kevin Clash. Clash is the voice and heart of Elmo.
The event and guests’ attire reflected the decade of the 1970s when the first van filled with educational materials for preschool children set out to the streets of Oklahoma City.
Today Rainbow Fleet’s extensive services for child care providers covers two counties and includes support for education, nutrition, health and training.
Chairman of the event was Matilda Clements, current president of the Rainbow Fleet board of directors. Royce Junghanns is the organization’s executive director.
Master of Ceremonies was Alex Cameron of News 9.
Clash and Cameron took a seat on the stage in comfortable chairs. A life-sized, panoramic “Fleet Street” backdrop, mirroring “Sesame Street,” was complete with storefronts and a movie theater marquee announcing Clash’s appearance.
An informal exchange focused on Clash’s journey of making puppets from scraps to entertaining the children in his mother’s in-home day care to becoming the world-wide phenomenon of Elmo. Clash said he believes children respond to Elmo because he represents love.
The audience cheered half-way into the talk when Clash launched into the voice of Elmo and during the audience Question and Answer session by request, sang “Elmo’s World.”
Clash’s special surprise for the evening was the auction donation of a birthday call from Elmo to three lucky children.
After his time on stage, Clash was presented with a small watercolor painting by Oklahoma City Memorial co-designer, Torrey Butzer.
As the 168 golden chairs of the outdoor Memorial reflect each life lost, Clash emotionally accepted the painting featuring Elmo hugging one of the golden chairs.
A specially produced video highlighting the history of Rainbow Fleet and three honorees set the stage for special recognitions.
Presentations were made to Benefactor Honoree, Inasmuch Foundation represented by President and CEO Bob Ross, and Legacy Honoree Margaret “Peggy” Loeffler, the founder of Rainbow Fleet and director emeritus of Casady School’s Primary Division who traveled from Texas for the event. Valarie Clemmons and Terry Walker were honored as Outstanding Family Child Care Providers for their cumulative service of 63 years in the child care profession.
The UCO Youth Honor Choir sang several numbers and The David Hooten Trio entertained throughout the evening.
“We are so grateful to the community and patrons for their support of Rainbow Fleet’s 40th Anniversary,” Clements said.
“It was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the organization’s community impact and those vital to its success. We look forward to a bright future and another 40 years of helping children.”
TO LEARN MORE about Rainbow Fleet and its services visit the website at www.rainbowfleet.org or by contacting Rainbow Fleet at 521-1426.