The University of North Georgia (UNG) continues its role as the spearhead for the NCAA Division II Make-A-Wish initiative, raising the most money of all Division II schools during 2013-14.
UNG's Athletic Department raised $21,413 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation in what was also a record-breaking year for the Peach Belt Conference (PBC) and Division II. This year, the PBC became the first-ever Division II conference to raise more than $50,000, and Division II set a new high with $567,778, surpassing the previous mark by more than $50,000. UNG has donated the highest amount of money among Division II schools to the Make-A-Wish Foundation in three of the past four years.
"The real winners in this entire initiative are the children who benefit from the Make-A-Wish foundation," UNG Athletic Director Lindsay Reeves said. "Seeing our entire campus community embrace such an impactful cause is overshadowed by the smiles that are brought to the faces of the recipients. Seeing Joseph Tippins receive his wish in February was a moving night that the Nighthawk Nation will always remember."
The division's Make-A-Wish alliance provides student-athletes with a front-row seat to see their hard work pay off. Because the money raised during the previous academic year by five Division II institutions exceeded the national average cost of a wish, UNG was one of five schools awarded the opportunity to host a wish celebration. In February, 11-year-old Tippins was given his wish to be an honorary UNG Nighthawk for a day, and it was revealed in front of a standing-room-only crowd that he would also be visiting Hawaii with his family.
Since Division II student-athletes on the national Student-Athlete Advisory Committee started the alliance with Make-A-Wish in 2003, the division has raised nearly $3.5 million for the national nonprofit – helping to fund more than 470 wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions. Last year, student-athletes raised enough to help grant some 70 wishes. Whether it's a vacation the child has always dreamed of, a visit with a favorite celebrity or tickets to cheer on a beloved sports team, the wishes the organization grants are designed to provide a positive, energizing experience for children battling medical conditions.
"For 11 years, NCAA Division II student-athletes have taken the skills that have allowed them to succeed in athletic competitions, such as teamwork and self-determination, and channeled them toward helping us grant wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions," said David Williams, CEO and president of Make-A-Wish America. "This record donation – along with the more than $3 million raised for Make-A-Wish in previous years – will forever change the lives of the wish kids who have had their one true wish granted thanks in part to the efforts of NCAA Division II student athletes throughout the country."
Nearly 77 percent of schools in Division II participated in the most recent fundraising efforts. Of those, 141 schools exceeded their total raised in 2012-13 and consequently received matching donations through Make-A-Wish America of up to $1,000 for local Make-A-Wish chapters. The matching donations amounted to more than $75,000.
Division II is already looking to build upon its fundraising success, with its fourth annual Week of Wishes running Oct. 3-15. During that time, the division is encouraging its schools to host Make-A-Wish fundraisers at campus sporting events and to spread awareness of the cause on social media.
The top 10 Division II institutions in 2013-14 are:
- University of North Georgia - $21,413.00
- Barry University - $20,220.50
- Edinboro University of Pennsylvania - $10,767.98
- Georgia College - $9,385.00
- Delta State University - $8,154.62
- Wingate University - $7,030.00
- Indiana University of Pennsylvania - $6,891.92
- Flagler College - $6,555.00
- Saint Leo University - $6,000.35
- Grand Valley State University - $6,000.00 (tie)
- University of Findlay - $6,000.00 (tie)
The Division II conference rankings are:
- Peach Belt Conference - $55,293.61
- Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference - $43,400.65
- Sunshine State Conference - $36,496.58
- Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference - $30,422.54
- South Atlantic Conference - $28,133.48
- Pacific West Conference - $25,912.66
- California Collegiate Athletic Association - $25,795.79
- East Coast Conference - $21,104.48
- Gulf South Conference - $20,935.09
- Great Lakes Valley Conference - $20,659.67