The Herren Project Fund

“Chris Herren has a personal story that inspires others. When he was at his lowest point, having just overdosed on heroin, Chris had friends who reached out and offered him a road to recovery. He in turn wanted to do that for others,” Kevin Mikolazyk, former executive director of the Herren Project, says of the organization’s origin.

Chris, a former professional basketball player, has been in recovery since 2008. He founded the Herren Project in 2011 “to support, inspire, and empower those affected by substance use disorder.”

The Portsmouth, RI-based, national nonprofit has served thousands of individuals and families through four key programs: Individual recovery services help individuals and families navigate treatment and recovery services. “It’s a real hands-on, hightouch approach,” Kevin explains. Family support is offered through more than 20 online support groups, educational webinars, and workshops. “It’s important that families learn how best to support someone who is struggling,” Kevin continues.

Prevention services are provided through Herren Project Clubs. Of the program that serves more than 200 schools across the country, Kevin notes, “It impacts kids who are struggling with mental health issues, peer pressures, and societal pressures.”

Finally, Team Herren Project raises money and awareness for the organization. Noting that more than 900 people have been involved, Kevin shares, “People have powerful stories of why they participate. Through the events, they support each other while also helping to fuel the growth of our organization.”

The COVID pandemic resulted in a 300% increase in people reaching out for service between March 2020 and March 2021, according to Bonnie Sawyer, executive director. She credits Herren Project’s “loyal supporters” for providing funding to allow them to respond to the increased demand.

“People have really stepped up. We feel we’re poised to no longer be a grassroots organization. An endowment has been in the back of my mind for some time. I knew if we were going to do it, that it should be with the Rhode Island Foundation. We always try to align ourselves with likeminded organizations, and Rhode Island Foundation shares our values and commitment to helping others.”