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The Harper Family

Dr. Oliver and Sharon Harper have had a major impact on the Phoenix area through Sharon’s real estate projects, Oliver’s continuing involvement in the medical community and their dedication to continuing to support community growth.

 They recently expanded their impact by becoming Multiyear Visionary Partners. But their support of SARRC has spanned many years. 

“I learned about SARRC at the very beginning from my beloved friend Denise Resnik,” says Sharon, chairman and CEO Plaza Cos., which she started in 1982.

Sharon recalls Denise’s struggle to find services after her son Matt was diagnosed with autism. Denise found little support in the 1990s, inspiring a vision of services and research to help children and families impacted by autism, Sharon says.

That vision led to the creation of SARRC in 1997 as well as Sharon’s desire to get involved. 

Supporting SARRC’s annual Community Breakfasts early on, Sharon and Oliver continued to learn about the autism spectrum. They were also impressed by the passion SARRC President and CEO Danny Openden brings to the mission. The more the Harpers learned, the more they realized how important it is to support SARRC’s programs and services, as well as expansion efforts.

“I am so proud of the fact that Phoenix is a leader in our country with autism services and research that are really making an impact on children and adults.” Sharon says. “In part because of effective leaders like Denise and Danny, you have amazing and effective programs.”

When the Harpers first got involved, autism didn’t directly affect the couple, their four children or the niece they raised. But they now have a grandson on the autism spectrum. “Our grandson,  now in the second grade has autism,” Sharon says. “We were fortunate to be able to turn to SARRC when we needed help. They met with us as a team and helped us with getting a diagnosis and understanding what types of services would be best for him.” He now flourishes in school and at home and we will always be thankful for the early intervention and support. Additionally, one of Julian’s favorite activities is attending the Phoenix symphony, where his grandfather is Chairman Emeritus.

Building on years of support for SARRC and its programs, the Harpers have joined the nonprofit as MVPs, committing to an annual donation for five years or more. “We hope our MVP giving will enable SARRC to serve even more families in the future who are impacted by autism,” Sharon says.

Supporting the community is a priority personally and as part of Oliver and Sharon’s businesses. Oliver is a retired physician who stays very active educating doctors as an assistant professor at University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix. For the past 30 years, he has been a volunteer physician at St. Vincent De Paul and also volunteers at the Mission of Mercy Mobile Medical Clinic. Both he and Sharon spent a year in Kenya volunteering at rural hospitals.

During her years leading Plaza Cos. Sharon has championed a culture of volunteerism and philanthropy. She is involved in dozens of leadership organizations including Greater Phoenix Leadership, Greater Phoenix Economic Council, TGen, Banner Health, Trustee for both Arizona State University and Creighton University and as a Trustee for the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust.

Are you interested in making a difference by becoming a SARRC Multiyear Visionary Partner? Learn more here.