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Organization seeks to help HIV-affected children

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

H.E.R.O. for Children is looking for the area's dedicated volunteer mentors who want to make a difference in children's lives.

The Atlanta-based non-profit - whose goal is to improve the quality of life of metro Atlanta children who have been infected, or affected, by HIV/AIDS - is in the process of expanding its SuperHEROes Mentoring Program.

The program, according to Meg Madan of H.E.R.O. for Children, is also in need of more area volunteers to be SuperHERO mentors. "As much as we are expanding, we are also still looking for volunteers to match to children we already have."

The 5-year-old organization has partnered with local hospitals to provide positive influences for children, who may otherwise be dealing with adverse circumstances.

"Mentors provide friendship, support, and positive role models for children in need," Madan said. "A lot of the families that we serve, a lot of them are under the poverty line."

The organization's SuperHEROes Program consists of community volunteers who commit to two years of spending time, at least twice a month, with a child, as the child participates in various enrichment activities throughout the year.

"We ask that they commit to at least a two-year relationship," Madan said. "We look for consistency for the children. These are great children who are just looking for someone to count on. [And] this interaction adds joy and pride in the child's life."

Would-be SuperHERO mentors must complete an application, screening process, and comprehensive training before they begin mentoring a child. Once matched, the SuperHEROes spend time with the children on their own terms, participating in activities ranging from baking cookies and helping with homework to watching or playing basketball games. Volunteers must be 22 years old or older to become a SuperHERO mentor.

The Rising HEROes Program involves 12 monthly life-skills sessions at the Warren Holyfield Boys and Girls Club in Atlanta that are designed for HIV/AIDS-affected children, ages 6-16, to help them increase their self-esteem and self-confidence and improve their communication skills.

The program, which includes four professional facilitators, also seeks to help them develop good study habits, money management, anger management, problem solving, and conflict resolution skills.

H.E.R.O. for Children currently serves hundreds of children statewide through its programs and events, including 44 children in its Rising HEROes Program and the roughly 300 children in its annual statewide events.

"We focus on the quality of life," Madan explained. "Basically, for someone to come and volunteer is to do something good for the community," she added. "And with the donations and help of volunteers, we'd hope to grow the number of children that we serve."

For more information about the organization's programs, e-mail Madan at volunteer@heroforchildren.org.

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On the net:

H.E.R.O. for Children:

www.heroforchildren.org