UGA HEROs members encourage students to join and improve the quality of life care for children infected or affected by HIV.
UGA HEROs Cares for Children Affected by or Fighting HIV
By Marilyn Primovic
UGA HEROs commits to improving the quality of life for children infected or affected by HIV alongside their parent organization, H.E.R.O. for Children.
“We focus on quality of life care because it is a side effect of the disease brought on by our society,” said AnneMarie McEachern, UGA HEROs executive director.
She said quality of life care looks different for everybody, but for H.E.R.O. children, it looks like visiting colleges, being able to apply for a scholarship, and attending Camp High Five.
Tylah Hankerson, assistant director for Camp High Five, shared how the organization’s role in her childhood equipped her to continue impacting other H.E.R.O. children.
She said she earned the H.E.R.O. Scholarship and attended Georgia State University for both her undergraduate and master’s degrees.
“H.E.R.O. showed me that I wanted to pursue a career in STI/STD prevention education,” said Hankerson.
Camp High Five
Hankerson said she gets to use her expertise now as the assistant director at Camp High Five, hosted by Camp Twin Lakes.
She said campers grow deep bonds through camp activities together.
“As a camper, it was a time where I got to meet back up with friends and just be carefree,” said Hankerson.
She said she now gets to watch children become more confident through their time at camp.
“One of the campers was a little shy a few years ago, but as she grew up, I got to see her be bold,” said Hankerson. “It was fun to see her dance at the talent show in front of a whole bunch of people.”
Camp Twin Lakes and H.E.R.O. for Children, parent organization for UGA HEROs, work together to ensure every camper can attend camp free of cost.
McEachern explained how camp is the main fundraising focus because it is one of the biggest programming expenses to cover for the children.
“Every single donation goes straight to the kids I care about so much,” said McEachern. “It doesn’t feel like a shout into a void because we get to see the quality of life care we fundraise for in action.”
The fundraising focus on camp is important because it allows the children to be surrounded with friends who are going through the same thing, explained Taylor Maggiore, UGA HEROs Greek member relations chair.
“Camp is the one week where our kids get to be reminded that they are normal,” said Maggiore. “They get to put aside any stigma that is carried with them and just enjoy time with their friends.”
“My biggest hope for UGA donors is that they will continue to donate,” said Hankerson. “You can really see the donations in action with the kids participating in camp activities.”
(UGA HEROs member bonds with H.E.R.O. child at a skating event.)
Quality of Life Care
McEachern said that while camp continues to be the main fundraising emphasis for UGA HEROs, members also focus on other aspects of the children’s quality of life.
She said that around 96 percent of the H.E.R.O. kids live below the poverty line and face negative stigmas attached to HIV.
We provide programs that bridge high school to college or a career path, said Maggiore.
“I became super close to one of our older kids, and college was not on her radar for the longest time,” she said. “This past semester, she came to us after deciding that she wanted to go to college.”
Maggiore said it has been fun for their friendship continue to grow as she now gives her college advice about which classes to take.
(UGA HEROs members walk a torch about 72 miles from Atlanta, Ga. to Athens, Ga. to open the UGA HEROs Olympics.)
Many UGA HEROs members will partake in the Torch Relay event by walking a torch about 72 miles from Atlanta to Athens in segments between Oct. 13–21 to kick-off the UGA HEROs Olympics.
“The walk is meant to symbolize the connection we have with our children in Atlanta as a way to raise awareness,” said Maggiore.
She said they will start walking at Ponce City Market and end at the Tate Student Center, where the event is held this year.
“All of the kids get to see us walk in to open the games and know that we walked all of this way for them,” said Maggiore.
Members also look forward to another fall event, Give a Kid a Gift Day, on November 28, to raise money for holiday gifts.
“We each pledge to raise $80 to get the kids something they want along with something they need,” said Maggiore.
(H.E.R.O. children compete in the UGA HEROs Olympics.)
UGA HEROs offers different levels of involvement through committees and teams, said Maggiore.
“We have seven committees that meet weekly, and our teams meet twice a month,” she said.
She explained that committees are tailored to member’s specific interests and abilities.
“We also have a freshmen council, which meets once a week to create fundraisers and plan additional events,” said Maggiore.
Many of our UGA HEROs members volunteer as counselors at Camp for a Cause, said McEachern.
“We love to have people come and volunteer,” said Hankerson. “We want you to be passionate about what you do and be prepared to have an awesome and rewarding week.
She said working at camp is worth the sacrifices made to be there, and she loves how the UGA student volunteers come willing to work.
“The kids love the UGA students, and we would love to have more come join us this year,” said Hankerson.
For UGA HEROs visit: https://www.ugaheros.org/.
For H.E.R.O. for Children and Camp High Five visit: www.heroforchildren.org.