The relationship between former Southern football player Devon Gales and the University of Georgia added another chapter this past weekend.
Georgia announced a campaign to raise $500,000 to build the Gales family a new, accessible home, a drive it is calling “Build a Dawg a House.”
“I’m just grateful,” Gales said to Baton Rouge radio host Matt Moscona on Monday. “It takes a miracle. Everything they have done has just been remarkable. They took my family in like we’d been here already, like I was at Georgia. I’m just truly blessed.”
Gales suffered a paralyzing cervical spine injury against Georgia on Sept. 26, 2015. Since then, he has spent the majority of his time rehabilitating at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, where he lives with his stepmother, Tish, and his sister, Teah.
ATLANTA — Here it comes. It always does.
His father, Donny, and brother, Dalen, remained behind in Baton Rouge. Their family home was one of thousands damaged by the historic flooding in August.
The university announced the fundraising campaign Saturday during halftime of Georgia's men's basketball game against LSU. Gales and his family were on the court as Georgia received the NCAA sportsmanship award for its commitment to Gales since the injury.
Not only did Georgia break the news publicly at that time, but it was news to the Gales family as well. Georgia played a video over the big screen detailing the plan.
UGAAA Launches Drive to “Build a Dawg House” For Devon Gales Family pic.twitter.com/ChxTCZHyq6— Georgia Bulldogs (@UGAAthletics) February 26, 2017
“It was breathtaking,” Gales told Moscona. “I was overwhelmed. They deserve that award … because they could have easily let me go on my way and said, ‘I will pray for you,’ and sent me back to Louisiana. But they didn’t. They took me in as I was one of their own kids.”
The Gales family was initially hoping to receive funds for a new accessible home in West Baton Rouge Parish from the Triumph Over Tragedy organization. In January, the Gales family severed ties with the organization after fundraising efforts hit a standstill. Triumph Over Tragedy raised $47,000 in total usable funds for the family, well short of its goal of $400,000.
Georgia is hoping the “Build a Dawg a House” campaign succeeds where Triumph Over Tragedy fell short. According to a report from the Macon Telegraph, more than $20,000 was raised in the first 36 hours.
That figure does not include a $10,000 donation from Georgia alumnus Benjamin Watson. The former New Orleans Saints tight end directed his gift to the Devon Gales Fund sponsored by the Southern University System Foundation.
Watson posted a photo of his donation on Twitter and asked several other prominent Georgia football alumni to do the same.
To donate to the fund set up by Georgia, text “Devon” to (706) 204-1707.