UFC heavyweight Walt Harris and his wife Angela suffered an unspeakable tragedy when their daughter Aniah Blanchard was kidnapped and murdered in 2019.
Now they are hoping to prevent other families from suffering the same fate with a new non-profit organization started in their daughter’s name.
Aniah’s Heart Foundation will seek to provide resources to help families searching for a missing loved one as well as help teach self-defense and awareness training to hopefully prevent further kidnappings.
“In the midst of all the turmoil we were going through, we didn’t know where to turn during those first hours of abduction, which are the most critical,” Harris told UFC.com. “An important aspect of our foundation is to help guide families and loved ones during those times, as everything is a whirlwind and it’s very traumatizing.
“From our personal experience, we might be able to comfort families and help point them in the right direction.”
As part of the foundation’s work, they will be helping with safety education through personal meetings on Zoom and Facebook while also offering monthly safety care packages.
Aniah’s Heart will also help with funding for searches, which can become a very expensive affair when it comes to manpower, lodging and other resources needed for an extensive effort.
“When a family member has a missing loved one, you really don’t know what you need to do,” Harris said. “The contributions we receive for Aniah’s Heart will go towards lodging, food, travel and other costs you just wouldn’t think about. We needed clothes on the fly, food and a place to stay when everything first happened.
“It becomes very, very expensive very quickly, and we realized how much goes into everything in real time. In those moments, parents aren’t even thinking of anything related to those things. You don’t think about renting a helicopter that costs $10,000 to search the areas from the air, you are just doing anything you can to try and find your child. We want to ease that stress as families are going through and those issues in the middle of that horrible process. We just want to be a buffer and blessing in that situation.”
Harris and his wife have already worked on 15 abduction cases directly while many others have reached out to them for advice during a dire situation such as a kidnapping.
As part of the launch of the new foundation, Aniah’s Heart will be focusing on four key aspects of the work they’re doing to help families in need as well as prevent further abductions from happening.
1). Safety and Awareness Education: Live Talks, taking place on social media, are information-driven sessions that disseminate tips, personal safety strategies, and heightened awareness of potential safety risks to those vulnerable to potential violent crimes.
2.) Self-Defense Training: Local in-person and mobile sessions provide skills training from expert instructors to people of all ages.
3.) Search and Rescue: Aniah’s Heart Foundation is a fundamental resource for organizing and providing support for search and rescue field operations that align with state and local officials (*More than 600,000 people are abducted in the United States annually).
4.) Support Families of Missing Victims: Help families survive, manage, recover and cope from the crisis of being victimized.
As part of the launch of the foundation, the UFC donated $25,000 to Aniah’s Heart while also committing to raise additional funds as well as awareness on an annual basis.
For more information on Aniah’s Heart, you can visit the foundation’s website.