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Make-A-Wish celebration at UNG makes dreams come true for local child

Make-A-Wish celebration at UNG makes dreams come true for local child
Chandler Holcomb, a 9-year-old from Gainesville battling leukemia, is escorted by UNG's Nigel the Nighthawk past student-athletes at the Coleman Field House as part of his Make-A-Wish celebration at Bob Stein Stadium on April 17.

A raucous celebration at University of North Georgia's (UNG) Bob Stein Stadium was held as Chandler Holcomb, the 2018 Make-A-Wish recipient from Gainesville, Georgia, was introduced to a cheering crowd before the start of the UNG baseball game against the University of West Florida on April 17.

Holcomb, a 9-year-old battling leukemia, began the afternoon at the entrance to Memorial Hall on the Dahlonega Campus, where he was introduced to athletic and university administrators. He was then transported to the ballfield with a UNG police escort, arriving at the entrance to the Coleman Field House, where he was greeted by the baseball team, the coaching staff and other UNG sports team members.

A tour of the team's locker room and facilities followed, with Holcomb receiving a number of UNG baseball paraphernalia from coach Tom Cantrell. Then, a press conference with Holcomb flanked by Cantrell and Director of Athletics Lindsey Reeves, introducing him as he signed a one-day contract making Holcomb a bona fide Nighthawk.

Holcomb's wish, a chance to go on a Disney Cruise to the Caribbean with his family, was revealed to those in attendance.

Finally, outfitted in a UNG baseball jersey and cap, Holcomb was escorted to home plate to give the Nighthawk's starting lineup to the umpires, then to the pitcher's mound, where he tossed the ceremonial first pitch.

UNG held off West Florida 9-8 to win the game for Holcomb.

Since 2010, UNG has raised more than $133,000 for Make-A-Wish, including at least $10,000 every year since 2010-11. That means more than 13 wishes have been granted from the efforts of the Nighthawk Nation. UNG's student-athletes have finished in the top five NCAA Division II donors for seven consecutive years, including being the top donor on five different occasions.

“UNG Athletics has a very special relationship with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, raising money to grant a wish to children with life threatening illnesses," said Reeves. "Since 2010 the UNG student athletes have been providing the funds for more wishes than any other NCAA Division II institution in the nation. This is a true testament to our student athletes and their commitment to community service and helping others less fortunate.”

UNG has won the Peach Belt Conference's (PBC) Make-A-Wish Award, named after former UNG student-athlete LeeAnn Noble, for eight consecutive years.

The PBC finished third at the conference level behind the Pennsylvania State Athletic and Gulf South Conferences, raising more than $45,424.

Since the Division II Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) established the partnership with Make-A-Wish in 2003, the division has raised more than $5.3 million for the nonprofit. Those funds have been used to grant wishes to more than 660 children across the country with life-threatening medical conditions.

The alliance with Make-A-Wish provides student-athletes with the opportunity to see their hard work pay off. SAAC continued a model adopted two years ago in which money collected from championship and enforcement fines are added to institutional fundraising in order for institutions to have the opportunity to host a wish reveal party on campus.

In 2017-18, eight institutions raised more than $10,000 — the national average cost of a wish reveal — and automatically earned a wish reveal party. UNG has hosted six consecutive make-A-Wish events on campus.

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