ATHENS, Ga.— University of Georgia student-athletes suited up Monday night for Learn, Play, Excel’s “Spooky Dawgs” at the House of Payne Indoor Practice Facility, but they weren’t in their typical uniforms. There was a Mr. Potato Head, a piñata and even a Hairy Dawg look-alike— just a few of the costumes worn by the UGA athletes who met and played with mentees of the Clarke County Mentor Program.
“My favorite thing about the event was seeing all the kids in their costumes,” UGA softball pitcher Mary Wilson Avant said. “They’re all so excited to be here and interact with all the athletes, so it’s just super fun for everyone.”
Georgia’s Learn, Play, Excel program aims to teach students the importance of education, leadership, setting goals and respecting authority. The program offers UGA student-athletes the opportunities to be a part of this initiative, allowing them to interact with and mentor students about these values. At Monday’s “Spooky Dawgs,” the UGA athletes and mentees spent the hour playing kick ball, corn hole and basketball, among other fun activities.
Georgia women’s basketball player Stephanie Paul and UGA track and field athlete Alec Collins were selected as the student-athlete speakers for the event. The two concluded “Spooky Dawgs” by offering the mentees words of encouragement and promoting the values Learn, Play, Excel aims to instill.
“I wanted to talk about the importance of friends and the importance of hanging out with the right kind of people,” Collins said. “If you hang out with the right people, they’ll push you to be yourself, your best self, and to be a better person. I just think events like this are important because [the kids] get to be around and play with people who care about them.”