ATHENS, Ga. — Representatives of the University of Georgia football team delivered a $100,000 gift to the Downtown Academy school as part of the fourth initiative of the “Dawgs For Pups” project on Thursday morning.
Seniors Jamaree Salyer and Jake Camarda and juniors Lewis Cine, Nakobe Dean and Kearis Jackson joined Bulldog staff members at the Downtown Academy in downtown Athens as they surprised the kindergarten through fifth-grade school with the donation generated from ticket sales from this Saturday’s annual G-Day scrimmage.
After the idea arose from a team meeting last year, the Bulldogs have been participating in a number of “Dawgs For Pups” activities in the Athens area and beyond to help students and others affected by the recent COVID-19 pandemic.
The latest initiative arrived when the Bulldog players selected the Downtown Academy as the recipients of proceeds from the G-Day ticket sales. The Downtown Academy opened its doors to its first students in 2013 and has steadily grown as an institution. The school that attempts to reach out and equip the children of inner-city Athens, focusing on knowledge, character and purpose.
“I am proud of our student-athletes for their idea to give all of the proceeds from G-Day back to the youth in our community and grateful to the Bulldog faithful for their unwavering support,” said Georgia head coach Kirby Smart. “Serving Athens is important and will continue to be a priority for Georgia football through the ‘Dawgs For Pups’ program.”
“The students at Downtown Academy were blown away by the generous gift from UGA football,” said Downtown Academy School Board President Chris Byrd. “Even more, they were encouraged by the inspiring messages from the players. This gift, along with our ongoing partnership with the Dawgs in the days ahead, will make a difference in the lives of kids in our community for years to come.”
Bulldog receivers coach Cortez Hankton, who has been one of the leaders of the “Dawgs For Pups” effort, addressed the student body and started by asking everyone to repeat “I know I can, I know I will.”
“We have come so far, but we have so far to go,” said Hankton. “Why is ‘Dawgs For Pups’ so important? Our student-athletes can be catalysts for change. Our student-athletes want to have connections with our community and local youth. Serving and building our future is important to the UGA Athletic Association. We have a responsibility to provide meaningful opportunities for our student-athletes to serve our community.”
Dean, who started all 10 games for the Bulldogs in 2020 and led them with 71 tackles, addressed the students and staff during Friday morning’s presentation.
“Success occurs when preparation meets opportunity, and one of the best ways to be prepared is if you work hard,” said Dean.
Georgia’s players stressed to the students the importance of dreaming big and having visions of their future, setting goals, having a strong work ethic, believing in themselves and respecting themselves and others. Cine, who was second on the squad with 52 stops last season, concluded the presentation by telling the students “in all things have gratitude.”
The first “Dawgs For Pups” activity raised approximately $100,000 to help provide students in Athens-Clarke County with WiFi hotspots . The second project was called Food2Kids Snack Drive and it generated more than 27,000 pounds of food donations for area children. The third initiative was a coat drive that was able to secure 437 new or gently used coats for local kids with the help of the Boys & Girls Club of Athens.