Harper credits Hospital for Special Care for achieving success without surgery;
Helps hospital launch “Harper Fund for Autism” fundraiser

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (June 10, 2014) – When Senator Joe Harper retired from the Connecticut Legislature in 1994, he weighed 736 pounds – an unhealthy all-time high. Over the last twenty years, with the help of Hospital for Special Care (HSC), Senator Harper adopted a new health regimen and changed his way of eating and exercise habits. By making those changes and sticking to a program, Harper now weighs less than 280 pounds. He achieved this feat without any bariatric surgery.  

“It’s amazing,” said John Votto, D.O., F.C.C.P., president and CEO, Hospital for Special Care. “In all of my years in medicine, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I’ve known Senator Harper for quite some time now and to see what he’s been able to accomplish is astounding. He is a role model and example of what determination and personal discipline can achieve.”

From the moment he left the Senate in January of 1995, Dr. Votto and retired Hospital for Special Care CEO’s Dr. Katherine Ill and David Crandall aggressively lobbied Senator Harper to address his weight. He worked with HSC staff over the years, and through numerous successes and failures he was able to adapt to the habit of exercise. From swimming, walking, riding to a stationary bike, Senator Harper learned new exercise routines while simultaneously adjusting his eating habits.

“Achieving this weight loss is probably the hardest, yet most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life,” said Harper. “I never could have done it without John Votto, my physical therapist Stanley John and everyone else who works with them at Hospital for Special Care.”

In the fall of 2013, Senator Harper approached Dr. Votto about wanting to thank HSC for all it had done for him throughout his battle with obesity. He saw many similarities between his struggle with obesity and the struggles of families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder. At Senator Harper’s request, HSC subsequently created the “Harper Fund for Autism” which will be used to fund operations at the hospital’s outpatient center for children on the Autism spectrum.

“This is my way of giving back,” Harper said. “HSC helped me conquer my obesity without surgery, now I want to assist HSC in helping individuals and families living with Autism Spectrum Disorder conquer their challenges.”

Fundraising for the “Harper Fund for Autism” will begin on Thursday June 26th with a “Tribute to Senator Joe Harper.” The event will take place from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. at the Hartford Club and is expected to feature remarks from a number of Harper’s former Senate colleagues including Congressman John Larson and Senator Richard Blumenthal. Those interested in attending or donating may contact Monica Charlam at mcharlam@hfsc.org or 860.827.4758. Sponsorships and ad book reservations are also available.

About Senator Harper

During his 16-years in the state legislature, Senator Joseph H. Harper, Jr. amassed a reputation as one of Connecticut’s most powerful and effective leaders. As the longtime chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, Senator Harper was instrumental in building state budgets, implementing the state income tax and bringing millions of dollars back to his hometown of New Britain. A former Alderman and mayoral aide in New Britain, Harper served two terms in the State House of Representatives before being elected and re-elected six times to the State Senate. After retiring from the Senate, he worked as a Deputy State Treasurer, as a Vice President at Central Connecticut State University and most recently as the Vice President of Government Relations at HSC. He retired from HSC in 2010, at which point he dedicated his efforts full-time to weight loss. In 2006, Gov. M. Jodi Rell and the Connecticut legislature named the state office building in Downtown New Britain after Senator Harper.