UGA HEROs golf tournament raises thousands to benefit kids affected by HIV/AIDS

Nearly 100 golfers turned out on a breezy Monday for the 11th annual UGA HEROs benefit tournament in Roswell, which raised more than $13,000 benefitting kids and young adults affected by HIV/AIDS.

“I’d never been here before, and the golf course is in great condition. It’s a great place to have it,” said Thomas Sumner, event sponsorship chair for UGA HEROs. “The way they set up the tournament makes it fun for everybody, so whether you’re good or bad, everybody really enjoys it. It’s a lot of fun out there.”

Sumner and fellow HEROs leader, Corporate Relations Co-Chair Madison Henson, grabbed their clubs and hit the green, hoping to win a hole contest or possibly even the whole tournament. 2017 is the second year the golf tournament was held in the Atlanta area, which Henson said is more central to donors and sponsors — not to mention most of the kids their programming supports. UGA HEROs members hope by planning the tournament in the metro Atlanta area each year, they’ll raise awareness of the disease spreading in their backyards.

“Seventy percent of our kids are from Fulton or DeKalb counties,” said Carlye Sanders, executive director of HEROs.

The student-run organization fundraises for quality of life programs for kids in the Peach State affected by or infected with HIV or AIDS. Grady Hospital recommends participants to HEROs’ parent organization, which then plugs them in to the University of Georgia group.

“If we don’t fundraise for our kids, there’s no one who will be able to fundraise for them. We are literally the only ones,” said Mairead O’Hare, director of events for UGA HEROs. “We live in 2017. There are still a lot of people that, when you said HIV and AIDS, they go, ‘Ugh.’”

Some of the things the golf tournament helps fund include HEROs’ transition to adulthood program, which involves campus tours and scholarship resources; a reading program; Christmas gift exchanges; mentoring and a summer camp.

“Everyone knows about other programs because it’s easier to talk about people infected with a certain disease or cancer, but there’s still a negative stigma associated with HIV/AIDS that people don’t want to talk about,” Henson said. “The conversation and dialogue hasn’t been very open, and so that’s why I feel like we’re really passionate about it.”