Nashville CARES appoints new Chief Development Officer

Spring brings growth and after an intensive local and national search, Nashville CARES has selected M. Patrick Hamilton as its new Chief Development Officer.

Nashville CARES is Tennessee’s largest HIV/AIDS service organization, providing services for more than 60,000 Middle Tennessee residents infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.

"I am very pleased to have Patrick join our team," said CARES CEO Joseph Interrante upon announcing the appointment. "He represents a new generation of leaders who will carry the CARES mission of education, advocacy and support into the future until we finally realize our dream of an AIDS-free world. In the meantime, I look forward to the energy and dedication he will bring to our fundraising team."

Hamilton takes the reins April 1, just in time for Dining Out for Life. O&AN caught up with Hamilton to discuss his passion for the fight against HIV/AIDS, future projects and the possibility of finding a cure in our lifetime.

Can you share with readers a bit about your background prior to Nashville CARES?

I attended the University of Tennessee where I acquired both my Bachelor and Master of Science degrees. Most recently, I worked as the Deputy Executive Director of the Tennessee Democratic Party. Prior to that, I served as the Director of Scheduling & Operations with the Office of Al Gore and as the Deputy Director of Community Affairs and Director of Scheduling & Advance with the Office of Governor Phil Bredesen.

My responsibilities included staff and program oversight along with fundraising and event planning. I have also been actively involved in youth leadership development, both with the Points of Light Foundation and the Tennessee 4-H program of the University of Tennessee.

I have been a volunteer with Nashville CARES, and most recently served as a Co-Chair for its "Under the Big Top" fundraiser in the fall of 2012.

Where does your passion for the fight against HIV/AIDS come from?

I grew up in rural upper east Tennessee. In the 90s, I remember always hearing about HIV/AIDS in the news, on TV shows and in national advertising campaigns. However, I knew no one that was impacted by the disease. My partner lost a close family member to complications from AIDS about two years ago. He is the only person I have actually witnessed die right in front of me as I was in the hospital room. When he passed, it had a profound impact on me. In the past year, I have learned that four of my close friends are HIV-positive, and one of those was recently diagnosed. Despite HIV/AIDS seeming to be much closer to my daily life, I feel like I have heard less about it in the media. I want to be a part of helping my family, my friends, my city, and all of middle Tennessee to have an increased understanding of HIV transmission and to be a part of an organization that provides services that improves the quality of life for people with HIV/AIDS and their families.

With Dining Out for Life, April is a big month for Nashville CARES--can you share a bit of what your day will be like on April 23?

Dining Out for Life is the first dine-out fundraiser of its kind and has raised millions for HIV/AIDS service organizations across North America. Now in its 11th year, it is considered one of Nashville's most fun and interactive fundraising events. In 2012, more than $115,000 was raised to fight HIV/AIDS in Middle Tennessee. On Tuesday, April 23, 2013, more than 6,000 diners will DINE OUT in over 70 restaurants that are donating between 30 and 100 percent of their proceeds to Nashville CARES.

There is a lot of footwork leading up to the event and the day of tends to be a marathon for staff. We have over 60 volunteer hosts that will fill their designated restaurants with friends, family and co-workers. Our job as staff members is to make sure every host has exactly what they need and for us to be available to assist in any way we can – the success of this event depends on our talented hosts so we want to give them as many tools as possible to be successful. We also have staff ambassadors that will travel to each restaurant and interact with diners, educating them about our mission at Nashville CARES and giving an opportunity for diners to give a gift beyond the cost of their meal. Staff, hosts and ambassadors are also tasked with thanking diners for coming out and supporting the cause.

Are there any upcoming Nashville CARES projects or sneak peeks you can share with readers?

At Nashville CARES we are always planning for our next testing, education or fundraising event. We are looking to launch an interactive marketing campaign in the fall to engage the community in HIV/AIDS awareness and to encourage testing. We are also exploring new avenues in expanding our services, enhancing the services we currently offer and finding new ways to better serve our clients. On the event front, we have Dining Out For Life taking place on April 23 and we also have our annual AIDS Walk, which will take place on Saturday, October 5 at Riverfront Park. This year our Red Ribbon Breakfast will take place around World AIDS Day.

What would you say is the biggest challenge facing the Nashville GLBT community and its fight to prevent HIV/AIDS?

As a group, the gay community has an increased chance of being exposed to HIV because of the large number of men who have sex with men (MSM) living with HIV. Many gay and bisexual men with HIV do not know they have HIV, especially MSM of color and young MSM. So, one of the biggest challenges is making sure that members of the community get tested at least once a year. An unwillingness to take an HIV test means that more people are diagnosed late, when the virus has already progressed to AIDS, often making treatment more difficult. As a community, it is past time that we all take responsibility for our sexual health and get tested at least annually.

Stigma and discrimination are also major challenges for our community. Stigma and discrimination will continue to exist so long as societies as a whole have a poor understanding of HIV and AIDS. The fear and prejudice that lie at the core of the HIV/AIDS-related discrimination need to be tackled, with AIDS education playing a crucial role.

Over the past 3 decades, we’ve made major strides in HIV/AIDS research-how hopeful are you that we’ll see a cure in your lifetime?

I think it's easy to take for granted the incredible advances that have been made in this field. When I was in elementary school, doctors didn't even know what this disease was that was killing so many people. I'm not saying there will be a cure found tomorrow, but I am very hopeful that a cure will be found in my lifetime. But in the meantime, we have to do everything we can to prevent HIV transmission and improve the quality of life for people with HIV AIDS.

If you could send a tweet to your 13-year-old self what would it say?

I had a very hard time dealing with being gay when I was young and always tried to overachieve to compensate, so I think I would tweet “Love who you are, not who you think you ought to be.” Maybe I should send myself that tweet today!

It seems like this would keep you very busy, how do you spend your free time?

I play softball with the Metro Nashville Softball Association on the Pink Panthers softball team. Also my partner, William, and I have two Belgian Sheepdogs, Merlin and Cyrus, who we spend lots of time with and I love to garden and can be found any weekend in the spring and summer out in the yard.

You can find more information for Dining Out for Life here or by visiting

To say up-to-date with events and ways to help Nashville CARES make sure you visit their website.

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