Chris Clark and Colleen Magee-Uhlik do chores at Therapeutic Ranch for Animals and Kids.


The Tucson-Sierra Vista Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity hopes to make Valentine's Day a red-letter day for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

"Red represents Valentine's Day and it also represents the care that St. Jude's provides for children and families who are in need of life-or-death medical care. Coincidentally, red and white are also the colors of Kappa Alpha Psi. We thought that a Sweetheart Ball on Valentine's Day would be something that the people of Tucson could look forward to on an annual basis," said Alonzo Williams, vice president of the local chapter of the fraternity and chairman of the gala that will be held just before Valentine's Day at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa.

Kappa Alpha Psi is an alumni and professional fraternity that will celebrate its centennial anniversary this July. Founded at Indiana University-Bloomington primarily to unite black men in the spirit of achievement, it now boasts 730 chapters internationally and 120,000 members worldwide and welcomes men of all cultures and ethnicities.

Its alumni include astronaut Bernard Harris Jr.; Tom Bradley, five-term mayor of Los Angeles; NBA Hall of Fame members Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain; investigative journalist Ed Bradley; and U.S. Rep. John Conyers.

The organization emphasizes patriotism, honor and integrity while promoting achievement in every endeavor, Williams said, and involvement represents brotherhood in the very best sense of the word.

"This gives me the opportunity to serve the interests of my community in a greater capacity. As an individual, I can only do so much, but if I can bring my efforts to the table with like-minded individuals worldwide and we pool our resources, we can have a greater impact," said Williams, a Tucson resident since 1985.

"The St. Jude's project is a good example of how the collective efforts of college men and professional alumni can have a positive impact in our communities."

The fraternity formed a philanthropic partnership with St. Jude Hospital in 2005, agreeing to raise $1 million over five years. After surpassing that goal, chapters nationwide continue to raise funds for the research hospital in Memphis, Tenn.

"What they do at St. Jude's for children stricken with cancer and other life-threatening diseases is totally amazing. … The whole idea is that no child will be denied service and care, regardless of cost," Williams said.

Ultimately, Williams believes the fraternity provides an example of all that can be accomplished in community service when multiple generations come together for a common goal. He hopes young people and professionals alike can carry that lesson over into other aspects of their lives.

"It is a testament to what we can do as American people when we join a movement or cause that serves a bigger purpose," he said.

The Sweetheart Ball will give the entire community the opportunity to join that movement.

"We want to do something that will allow the community at large to participate," he said, "and we want to give Tucson something to look forward to that is exciting and different."

If you go

A Valentine's Day Gala - The Sweetheart Ball to benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

• When: 7 p.m. Feb. 12.

• Where: JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa, 3800 W. Starr Pass Blvd.

• Cost: $75 per person; $125 for VIP seating.

• Etc.: Festivities include a four-course dinner prepared by James Beard Award-winning chef Melissa Kelly followed by dancing to the band Static with Dominic Amato. Evening attire required; women are asked to wear red.

• Guests can participate in a raffle for a Valentine's Suite after the gala, courtesy of the JW Marriott Starr Pass.

• For tickets or more information call Alonzo Williams at 370-7672.

• Go to for more information about Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity.

Contact freelance writer Loni Nannini at