The first indoor Red Ribbon Gala in three years will be held by The Project of the Quad Cities (TPQC) on Saturday, June 25 at the Bend XPO Center in East Moline.

Last year’s event was outdoors at Lindsay Park in the Village of East Davenport. About 500 people attended, raising $90,000 for The Project. So far, 450 people have registered for this weekend’s gala, marketing and communications director Tyler Mitchell said Thursday.

Tyler Mitchell is marketing and communications director for The Project, located at 1701 River Drive, Moline.

The Red Ribbon Gala is TPQC’s major fundraiser of the year — it was canceled in 2020, and last held inside in 2019 at Rhythm City Casino’s Event Center. They use proceeds to support services (nearly all free of charge) it provides to people living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. 

TPQC typically serves about 600 people in the region each year, mainly from Rock Island and Scott counties, Mitchell said. The Project service area and staff have grown significantly in recent years. The number of employees since 2017 has grown from 14 in 2017 to 41 in 2021. Its clients include:

  • People living with HIV or people at risk for HIV transmission.
  • People living with Hepatitis C (HCV) or people at risk for HCV transmission.
  • People who inject drugs
  • LGBTQ+ individuals

Combine, a Bass Street restaurant, is catering this year’s Red Ribbon Gala. The schedule of activities will be:

  • Cocktails – 5 p.m.
  • Dinner – 6 p.m.
  • Welcome & Program – 7 p.m.
  • Silent & Live Auction – 5-8:30 p.m.
  • Live Band – 8-10:30 p.m.

The Louis Katz award will be given in memory of Clayton Peterson, a longtime community advocate and volunteer who passed away late last year.

TPQC’s Louis Katz award will be presented in memory of Clayton Peterson, who passed away last fall at age 74.

This is the 29th Red Ribbon Gala, and will be the fifth time The Project has given the award, named after Dr. Katz (its first recipient), who is medical director for TPQC. Dr. Katz began his career in medicine as an infectious disease specialist and deeply involved in the treatment of HIV/AIDS patients from the onset of the AIDS pandemic in the early 1980s.

Last year’s winner was Roma Taylor, a former nurse with Scott County Health Department. This year is the second time the award will be given posthumously – the first was in 2019, when it recognized Thea Hansen, a former TPQC staff member who died in 2018, Mitchell said.

“Simply put, The Project of the Quad Cities owes an enormous debt of gratitude to Clayton Peterson,” said TPQC Community Impact Officer Sarah Stevens. “He spent so much of his free time helping us and our clients. His generosity had no limits.”

Peterson was instrumental in organizing the annual We Care Weekend, a fundraiser for The Project that attracted attendees from as far as Des Moines and Chicago. The event morphed throughout the years, last happening in 2015.

“Back in the ’90s, the We Care Weekend would bring in significant dollars to support our clients living with HIV,” Stevens said. “So many community members came together to make it happen. But we know Clayton was one of the most pivotal and we are excited to be able to honor this significant contribution in some way.”

Peterson’s incredible legacy

Peterson was also involved with The Project’s Red Ribbon Gala, in particular the sale of custom Christmas tree ornaments. Caitlin Wells, TPQC’s CEO, said a few of those antique ornaments will be available for bidding in this year’s gala silent auction.

Caitlin Wells is CEO of The Project of the Quad Cities.

As for the decision to pick Peterson as this year’s award recipient, Wells said it was an easy choice.

“We wish the circumstances were different, but the need to honor Clayton remains. He truly impacted so many lives when he was with us. He represents all the best parts of The Project: caring, compassionate, and remarkable.”

Peterson, 74, of Rock Island, passed away Nov. 28, 2021, at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City. Memorials may be made to the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter #669.

He was born August 27, 1947, in Moline. He was a proud U.S. Army veteran, serving during the Vietnam era. He married Steven W. Johnson on Sept. 22, 2009 in Davenport. Peterson worked several years as a clerk at the United States Postal Service.

He was a member of the Alwood Class of 1965 reunion committee, Broadway Neighborhood Metropolitan Community Church serving as Sanctuary Environment Chairman, Equity Project in the 1990s to add sexual orientation to the local ordinances regarding discrimination, and the Mississippi Valley Quilters Guild serving on the program committee and the Quilt Show committee.

Having Pride in the QC

TPQC’s Pride Party at Bass Street Landing in Moline last weekend was a big hit, Mitchell said.

“It was amazing. I think we had close to 400 people there and the weather was perfect,” he said. “And the performances were awesome. It was a very successful night.”

Auction items displayed at the 2019 Red Ribbon Gala at the Rhythm City Casino Event Center.

The band for the Red Ribbon Gala will be Soul Storm, a QC dance band. Tickets for the event are $80 each, available by contacting Mitchell directly at 309-581-2037 or tyler@tpqc.org.

For more information, visit The Project website.