The Red Tail Ball 2018
Annual gala celebrates the incredible legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen and the future of flight
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DURING the second annual Red Tail Ball, under the theme “A Night in Old Havana,” more than 400 supporters of Tuskegee NEXT celebrated the group’s mission of providing a direct path to aviation careers for at-risk youth.
At the DuPage County Airport Planemasters Hangar in West Chicago, there were numerous highlights, including baseball Hall-of-Famer Billy Williams’ acceptance of the first Tuskegee NEXT Trailblazer Award, given to a person who embodies the spirit of the Tuskegee Airmen. “This is a great thrill for me because I know what the Tuskegee Airmen went through,” said Williams, the Chicago Cubs legend. “The Tuskegee Airmen had a dream that one day they would fly, and they are to be congratulated [for their persistence], giving those who followed them the hope that their dreams would also come true.”
Based on the idea that there could be a shortage of pilots in the future, Tuskegee NEXT Founder and Chairman Steve Davis came up with the idea to address the possible shortage and at the same time create a huge opportunity for youths who are interested in seeking a career in aviation. The initial goal was to train 100 pilots over a 10-year period, and currently Tuskegee NEXT has 25 cadets, 22 solo pilots and 18 licensed pilots. “With the mandatory retirement age of 65 in the airline industry, we have an opportunity to empower talented, driven students who would not otherwise have access to the resources needed to become pilots,” Davis said. “You take the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, the real need and challenge to reduce unemployment in urban America and this great facility of the DuPage Airport was a formula for putting together a program to encourage and immerse them in aviation.”
The gala included dinner, dancing, raffle prizes, casino games, silent and live auctions, and live entertainment by the Chicago Catz. Thanks to supporters, the fundraiser will allow Tuskegee NEXT to continue its efforts to build on the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen.
“I’m truly humbled,” Davis said, “by the turnout, the giving and the spirit.”
Baseball legend Billy Williams accepts the Tuskegee NEXT Trailblazer Award, and (right) Tuskegee Airmen Hollis Cornelius and Julian Johnson are recognized. Supporters (below) were greeted by "the champagne lady" and others participated in the live auction.
Photographs by LeVerne A. Danley III
During the 2018 Red Tail Ball, Tuskegee NEXT Founder and Chairman Steve Davis is joined by some of the cadets connected with the program.
Dr. and Mrs. Tracy Scott were among the supporters, and (right) DeSean Hayden accepted the Milton Williams Jr./Popovich Memorial Scholarship.
At left, some attendees spent time playing casino games as part of the event's multiple activities. Supporters (below) ended the night dancing to the music of the Chicago Catz.
For more information on Tuskegee NEXT or to become a supporter, go to www.tuskegeenext.org.