For the fourth consecutive year, the University of North Georgia (UNG) will serve as the host for an on-campus Make-A-Wish event, welcoming 12-year-old Emmalee of Acworth to be the star of a two-day series of athletic events and celebrations.
Spearheaded by the athletic department's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), the Make-A-Wish Extravaganza begins on Monday, March 28 with Nigel the Nighthawk's Mile of Superheroes, a one-mile fun run/walk featuring past and present Make-A-Wish recipients. The event will also offer awards, both individual and team, for participants with the best superhero costumes. All proceeds from the walk benefit UNG's Make-A-Wish initiative.
In 2015, UNG's Department of Athletics raised over $11,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, marking the fifth consecutive year that UNG has been listed in the top five donors among NCAA Division II schools. Twelve years ago, Division II began its alliance with Make-A-Wish, and since then it has raised nearly $4.1 million. That money has been used to grant wishes to more than 530 children across the country with life-threatening medical conditions.
"We want everyone to rally behind such a great cause in Make-A-Wish," said SAAC Treasurer Taylor Allen, who golfs for the Nighthawks. "It is not just for us, it is not for the school, but it is for the kids that we will be helping."
Emmalee will become an official member of the UNG softball team on March 29 prior to UNG's 1 p.m. doubleheader against Georgia College & State University. The softball doubleheader and baseball single game later that evening will be broadcast nationally by ESPN3.
A special Make-A-Wish presentation will take place between the two softball games at Haines & Carolyn Hill Stadium.
The ESPN broadcasts will mark several firsts for both UNG and the NCAA, as it will be the first time any on-campus baseball or softball games will air on ESPN3 as part of Division II's new media agreement with ESPN.
A pair of local restaurants have also pitched in to assist with kick-starting the fundraising efforts; McDonald's and Steak-N-Shake hosted three community nights each, from which 10 percent of all proceeds will be donated to Make-A-Wish. McDonald's participated on March 2, 9 and 23, and Steak-N-Shake participated on March 4 and 11, with a final night coming up on March 25 from 4 to 10 p.m.
"It is not just raising money for a charity, it is raising money to make a kid's dream come true," said SAAC President Brandon Agar, who plays baseball. "It is great to see the community come together and make this event so unique. That is one thing we like to brand ourselves with here at UNG."
In addition to having a national audience through ESPN's coverage, representatives from the NCAA national office and Make-A-Wish Georgia will be on hand to assist with rolling out the red carpet for Emmalee.
Visit the schedule of Make-A-Wish events on the athletic department website for more information.