In a 36-hour period, Georgia's drive to build Devon Gales' family an accessible home has already raised $20,000.
At halftime of the Georgia men's basketball team's 82-80 win over LSU, the football program announced that it would start fund-raising efforts to help the Gales family construct a new home. Gales, a former wide receiver at Southern University, suffered a fracture to his C6 vertebrae on Sept. 26, 2015. The injury required surgery and left him paralyzed from the waist down.
Georgia has also enlisted Southern, LSU and Miami to assist with fund-raising efforts, which it has dubbed "Build a Dawg House."
On Monday, the Gales family received an additional gift from Baltimore Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson, who played for the Bulldogs from 2000-03. His foundation, The Watson Family Fund, gave a single grant of $10,000 toward the Gales' family accessible home through the Southern University fund set up for him.
Watson took to Twitter to help further promote the efforts. Watson, an activist in community service, tagged other former Georgia players in the NFL – Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, Cincinnati Bengals receiver A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins, Kansas City Chiefs receiver Chris Conley, Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley, New England Patriots receiver Malcolm Mitchell and former San Diego Chargers and Peach County tight end Randy McMichael – in a tweet to help spread the word about donating to the Gales' future home.
Watson met the Gales family in one of his first returns to Athens since the injury in 2015, and saw a quality in Gales.
“I had the opportunity to meet Devon at a Georgia game in 2015 and was impressed by his determination courage and resilience,” Watson said. “He and his family have experienced unique challenges and I hope our donations, words and prayers will encourage them as much as they have inspired us. I'm glad they a part of the Georgia family."
In a 12-month period of fund-raising by the Triumph Over Tragedy organization, which began last year in February, $77,000 was raised for the Baton Rouge, Louisiana home, and only $47,000 could be used from that pool – due to expenses – to purchase the land. The four universities have since teamed up to boost the fund-raising, mainly by promotion via social media outlets.
It has grown into a nationally-recognized effort thus far, as shown by Arizona State offensive line coach Rob Sale, who was on staff with the Bulldogs when Gales went down at Sanford Stadium.
“We are so blessed that the entire Bulldog Nation has continued to help support my son as they have done from the beginning,” said Tish Gales, Devon’s mother. “We are so grateful with the overwhelming response of donations received thus far. God is good.”
At this time, the Gales family is split. Devon and Tish live with his younger sister, Teah, within a two-mile radius to Atlanta’s Shepherd Center, where Devon undergoes treatment daily at the “Beyond Therapy” program. Devon’s father Donny and brother Dalen are residing in Baton Rouge, in a home which is being repaired due to recent flood damage. While Devon plans to stay in the Atlanta-based therapy program until his goals are reached, the hope is that the latest campaign provides some closure and removes the extra burden.
Georgia's goal is to raise $500,000 toward the home, and the campaign will continue to be promoted through the football program’s spring game on April 22. You can donate by texting "Devon" to the phone number 706-204-1707, a link is returned asking donors to give $5, $10, $25, $100 or a custom amount.
A link to donate to the "Build A Dawg House" fund can be used on a computer HERE.
Donors can also donate online to Southern University's online fund HERE.
Checks can be mailed to:
Southern University System Foundation
c/o Devon Gales Fund
P.O. Box 9562
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70813
In addition, donors can write a check payable to the "Devon Gales House Construction Fund" to UGA if they would prefer to this address:
1 Selig Circle
Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall Rm. 402
Athens, GA 30603
Attn: Bryant Gantt