AIDS Walk RI, taking place Sunday, September 13, will recognize a person or organization dedicated to the fight against HIV and AIDS with the first annual “Hope Harris Award.”
The award is named for the late Hope Harris, who was a member of the AIDS Project Rhode Island board for the last part of her life. She was also a longtime receptionist for the late Senator John Chafee and also served in Senator Lincoln Chafee’s office.
“Shortly before our mother passed away from cancer 11 years ago, she cleaned out some of her belongings to sell them off at her yard sale to benefit AIDS Project Rhode Island,” said her son Michael Reis of Providence. “The monies raised she gave to support the programs and services of the project. While battling cancer this gave her the opportunity to simplify her life and give to the organization she worked with for many years.”
AIDS Project Rhode Island executive director Stephen Hourahan was a colleague of Ms. Harris. “Hope was a leader in efforts to outreach to the African American community and to fight the stigma around HIV/AIDS,” he said. “We remember Hope as a humble, devoutly religious person with a huge heart and love for life.”
He noted that this year’s Hope Harris Award recipient is a closely guarded secret. “We’ll be announcing it shortly after 12:30 p.m. the day of the walk,” he said.
AIDS Walk RI, sponsored for the first time by two AIDS service organizations, AIDS Project Rhode Island and AIDS Care Ocean State, includes an approximate two mile route that starts and ends at the Rhode Island State House lawn facing downtown Providence. The 2015 AIDS Walk RI theme is “Keeping Hope Alive.”
“It’s more than a coincidence that we came up with that theme,” said AIDS Care Ocean State executive director Paul Fitzgerald. “It captures what the event is all about and is a way to remember and honor Hope Harris.”
Registration starts at noon, and is also available on-line at www.firstgiving.com/aidswalkri
The speaking program commences about 12:30 p.m. and the walk steps off shortly after. AIDS Walk RI raises critical funds for public awareness, advocacy, testing and comprehensive services for people living with HIV/AIDS. Event participants often form “walk teams” to raise money.
Free, fast, anonymous HIV testing will be available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., there will be a performance from the Providence Gay Men’s Chorus, the AIDS Quilt will be displayed, and there will be free food and activities.
Event sponsors include Cardi’s Furniture, CVS Health, Miriam Hospital/ a Lifespan Partner, Blue Cross Blue Shield of RI, United Healthcare, the City of Providence, MetLife, McLaughlin & Moran, NBC 10, GoLocalProv, 94 HJY and Coast 93.3 radio, Latino Public Radio, WBRU, Poder 1110, Latina 100.3, WJFD and WUMD.