An extensive search for land to build an accessible home for Devon Gales came to an end in recent days.
The Gales’ family has settled on a lot in the Traditions of Braselton neighborhood, slightly outside of the desired area of Gwinnett County. Gales has lived in Lawrenceville throughout recent months while rehabbing from a spinal-cord injury at the Shepherd Center.
He had been taken from location to location in search of a spot, but the latest find in Jefferson felt like “home.” When Gales, along with his parents, siblings and Georgia staffer Bryant Gantt arrived at the location, they were given another surprise.
Whit Marshall, former Georgia linebacker from 1992-95 and CEO of Paran Homes, offered to donate the one-acre lot to the Gales family for construction of the home. Traditions of Braselton is one of many areas managed by Marshall in the Southeast.
“We are a Georgia family and feel privileged to play a small role in helping this project become a reality,” Marshall said. “Devon and his family have been through a lot over the last two years and continue to persevere and keep such a positive attitude under these difficult circumstances. They deserve to be together.”
Marshall reached out to Mike Elrod of Currahee Home Builders — a leader in the project — and asked if he could donate land. From that point, the Gales’ family didn’t need too much convincing.
“The biggest thing about it was the donation,” said Tish Gales, Devon’s mom. “We loved the community atmosphere, as well. When we heard that news, we were overwhelmed, shocked and in awe."
Dalen and Teah Gales, Devon’s younger siblings, are within walking distance of elementary schools and a number of amenities. Devon will be within 50 miles of the Shepherd Center and continue work in the Beyond Therapy program.
He also will be within a 30-minute trip to Athens as the family still holds hope of enrolling Devon in classes at UGA.
In addition to the fundraising efforts during recent months, a significant number of donors have stepped forward to assist with the construction of the accessible home or provide infrastructure. Along with Marshall, assistance has come from Accent Roofing Service, Henry Warren of Georgia, 2-10 Home Buyers’ Warranty of Georgia and others.
A timeline has been developed with the intent of moving dirt in the next 90 days. First, however, the Build for Devon organization has to submit site surveys and erosion control to Jackson County and the Environmental Protection Division.
“We just want people to see this is now in action,” said Jim Butterworth, a leader of the Gales’ family efforts as a Macon native, UGA alum and former director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. “We know people were starting to get skeptical about this because it had been almost three years, and now we are in a spot to make plenty of progress.”
Financially, the Gales’ camp feels as if adequate fundraising has taken place. The funds stand at around $250,000 as of July 2, and Butterworth doesn’t plan on pressing for more money unless a hurdle appears during construction.
But there is one pressing need for the family: a home designer. Devon needs accessibility in the new home in order for a functional and easy lifestyle. The current plan is for two master bedrooms to be built on the main level for Devon and his parents, two bedrooms on an upper level for his siblings and a rehabilitation room in order for some in-home workouts to take place.
The organization has a spreadsheet of the plethora of donors who have stepped forward, but the design serves as the key in order for construction to begin.
“The worst thing for us to do would be to build a house that doesn’t fit what they need,” Butterworth said. “We’ve got architects, but they will readily admit they aren’t experts in handicap-accessible housing.”
Thirty-three months have elapsed for the Gales family since Devon suffered his life-altering injury at Sanford Stadium. Now, one of their biggest promises is now coming to fruition.
“It feels as if a heavy burden has been lifted off my shoulders,” Tish said. “This was just what we needed.”