The NCAA Division II "Week of Wishes" campaign has kicked off and will run from Oct. 1-16 with the University of North Georgia (UNG) Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) unveiling a series of events centered around its annual Make-A-Wish initiative.
This year's events kicked off with the hosting of a wish recipient on Oct. 12 for Make-A-Wish Day 2016 (#UNGWish16). Alexis, a six-year old from Canton, became a Nighthawk for a day as an honorary member of the nationally ranked UNG women's soccer team. Alexis was diagnosed with Wilms' tumor, a rare tumor that affects the kidneys primarily found in young children and has had to constantly battle against her life-threatening condition.
Make-A-Wish Day is the first event of the UNG SAAC's fundraising efforts which will be capped with Nigel's Run with Superheroes: Make-A-Wish 5K and Fun Run/Walk on March 27 on the UNG Dahlonega campus.
"We want everyone to rally behind such a great cause in Make-A-Wish," said SAAC President Zach Tibbs who plays soccer 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."
"In the past 3 years, we have raised over $60,000 for Make-A-Wish. Each year we have tried to make our Wish reveals as big as possible and really make a huge event out of each one. We talked with our past Wish recipients and what they really hold onto is the relationships they made during their time here at UNG. That's what we are focusing on this year, making Alexis truly feel like she is a part of the Nighthawk Family," Tibbs said.
UNG raised $34,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation during the 2015-16 academic year, the most ever by a Peach Belt Conference school. This marks the sixth straight year that the Nighthawks have reached the five-digit mark for annual giving.
Nationally, UNG has donated the highest amount of money to the Make-A-Wish Foundation in three of the past five years and has finished in the top five NCAA Division II donors for five consecutive years. The university previously held the highest ever single-season donation by a Division II school when the Nighthawks pledged $21,413 in 2013-14.
The NCAA and Make-A-Wish Foundation have teamed up since 2003 to raise more than $4 million toward granting the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. More than 500 wishes have been granted through Division II contributions, and these wishes can serve as a game changer in children's fights against their illnesses, helping them feel better, and in some cases even get better.
Visit the schedule of Make-A-Wish events on the athletic department website for more information.