The average child living with HIV takes between 15 and 20 pills a day. These pills, described as “Gasoline Pills” due to their taste, only become effective when taken in a cycle. Children stop taking their medicine (because of the awful taste), and they don’t want to start again because of the 2 month period of sickness while their bodies readjust.
UGA HEROs is the only organization in the state that exists to provide quality-of-life care
for the 12,000 kids infected or affected by HIV/AIDS in Georgia, raising money to support the programs offered by H.E.R.O. for Children, Inc., spreading awareness about the growing problem of pediatric AIDS, and participating in service initiatives aimed at improving the lives of affected children.
My parents taught me that the lives we lead and the relationships we form and grow are the most important things to nurture because they are lasting. At my grandmother’s memorial service, my mom spoke about how the relationships we make in life help us grow into a better community, one in which we look out and care for one another.
The friendships that my grandmother made in her life helped her see all of Europe, teach school children English, laugh on the tennis court, and find the love of her life, my grandfather.
The relationships we form with these kids last. The relationships we form with fellow UGA HEROs members last. We are a family here at HEROs, and this family lasts.
After unexpectedly leaving the dance studio where I spent 8 years of my life (including Freshman and Sophomore years at UGA), I was lost and unsure what to do with my spare time. I just lost the group of people that I considered my second family, and my mom recently moved out of state—the school year was already stress city one week in.
Sad and flustered, I decided to take some initiative and go to the UGA HEROs kickoff. I had heard about HEROs through the grapevine over the past 2 years and had always been fascinated by HIV/AIDs, so I figured going to the kick off couldn’t hurt.
Walking into my first meeting as a member of the Special Events committee, I was blown away by the passion and excitement that my Committee chair showed for the organization. We immediately jumped into planning our events; with each meeting and discussion of the kids we were helping, I became more and more passionate about the cause.
It wasn’t until I met my first kid that I truly understood why UGA HEROs is so important. I’ll never forget getting ready to go to the Vanderbilt football game where they were holding a kid event and being super nervous. I didn’t know that many people in HEROs and I wasn’t sure how I was going to interact with these kids. Would they think I was a loser for wanting to hang out? Did they even like football?
All my concerns and fears flew out the window when after only being in the room for a few minutes, one little boy walked straight up to me and wrapped his arms around my waist in the best hug I’ve ever had. Here was a child, whom I had never met, reaching out and ready to play. From that moment on, my life has been forever changed. I spent the day with that kiddo, most of it with him on my back or shoulders, and watched as he experienced a UGA football game from both the sidelines and the stands.
As a loyal Dawg fan, I already thought I knew how amazing UGA football games were, but seeing it that day from that child’s perspective changed everything I thought I knew. This was why I was writing fundraising letters, why I was posting my fundraising page all over Facebook, and why I wanted to put everything I have into UGA HEROs. The kids and the amazing members of HEROs have created a second home for me at UGA and a place where my heart can be fully invested.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve been a helper. I was the kindergarten kid helping the teacher, and passing out papers. In elementary school, I was the Girl Scout whose mother was the troop leader, and we were centered around helping others. In high school, I started a small organization in my hometown called “Carlye Cares”, raising money and collected donations for battered women.
I’m from Perry, Georgia, and most people from my high school at UGA are involved in UGA HEROs. HEROs was a place that felt like home as soon as I signed up, and I encouraged my friends to sign up too. At first, it was just fundraising. I hadn’t met our kids—only heard the stories.
I finally got to meet our kids at a football game in Athens when Coach Richt donated tickets so they could see the Dawgs play. Seeing their smiling faces, watching them run around, and feeling their radiating happiness was life-changing. So many times, we fundraise, or donate money for a cause that we don’t get to experience firsthand.
In December I went to the Olympics for our kids, and it was something I’ll never forget. I sat on the floor and ate with them, they showed me the stuffed animals they made, I raced them down the slide, and got to hang out with them. HEROs is more than a “club”, more than another thing to add to your resume, more than a t-shirt to wear around campus. HEROs is home, not only for me but to the kids who we serve.
I joined HEROs my sophomore year as a philanthropist and became more involved when I joined the PR/Marketing committee this past spring. My committee leader encouraged me to apply to be a team leader and I thought, “why not?” HEROs is a great cause and full of wonderful people.