On a homecoming Saturday afternoon in Athens, most University of Georgia students are getting ready to see the Georgia Bulldogs play between the hedges in Sanford Stadium with their family and friends but the executive director of UGA HEROs, Hayes Patrick, is busy with something else.
Patrick is busy arranging the perfect day for a unique set of kids that rarely get a glimpse of Sanford Stadium and will have an opportunity that not many people get to do.
As the University of Georgia football team walks through their pre-game tradition of the Dawg Walk, they enter into Sanford Stadium to see over 30 kids wishing them luck as they step onto the field. These kids are guests of UGA HEROs and are affected by or diagnosed with HIV/ AIDS.
UGA Hearts Everywhere Reaching Out, or HEROs, is a campus organization that helps with the raising of money to benefit the quality of life of children in Georgia infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS and is led by Executive Director Hayes Patrick.
Patrick, a senior from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has been with HEROs since his freshman year at UGA and has worked his way up from being a representative from his fraternity to HEROs to the community relations chair and now as the 2014 executive director.
“UGA HEROs stood out because it focuses more on the psychological effects and developmental issues associated with a disease,” Patrick said. “Additionally, the culture of HEROs is enormously different than in any other philanthropy on campus. HEROs focuses on
the personal and social development of its members, and being part of this organization truly means being welcomed into a very diverse and extroverted family.”
Over the past 11 years, UGA HEROs has raised over $2.5 million to benefit the quality of life for children infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS and Patrick has set the 2014 fundraising goal at $325,000 but raising money isn’t the only side of HEROs that Patrick works on.
Several times every semester UGA HEROs hosts kids that have been affected by or that are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS to special days that make them feel like kids again. These days include taking them to the Atlanta Zoo or to the Athens Corn Maze or setting up a scavenger hunt around UGA’s campus. Each event, Patrick has always been there interacting with these children on a personal level making sure that they are having a great time.
“Kid events are celebrations of all the hard work that we do all year long, so instead of running around or stressing over details, Hayes focuses on building relationships with the kids,” Greek Events Chair Devon Griger said. “He uses that time with them to recharge and really focus in on why we do all the hard work that we do.”
Throughout the many events that Patrick has been involved with, one moment stands out in particular to him.
During their end of the year carnival, that HEROs puts on for these special kids, Patrick had an interesting encounter with a seven-year-old girl that was attending the carnival. She approached Patrick wearing a beautiful white dress that she borrowed from the dress-up station at the carnival. She then proceeded to ask him to marry her with Patrick replying, “Absolutely!”
Patrick went to retrieve some flowers to give her and under a ballon arch they got married for the day.
Its moments like these that Patrick still recalls when he is asked about special moments within his time at HEROs and drives him everyday to strive to do greater for this organization and the many lives that he has helped for the better.
“You can tell at just one glance that his heart is in it for the right reason,” Catherine Gant, director of HERO philanthropist relations, said. “Seeing our kids having the best day makes him satisfied with all the work he has put in the organization.”