DAHLONEGA - The University of North Georgia (UNG) will help make a young cancer patient's wish come true with a luau-themed celebration planned for Feb. 13 on the school's Dahlonega Campus. UNG is one of only five NCAA Division II schools in the country chosen to host a Make-A-Wish reveal.
"UNG's Make-A-Wish campaign is a collective effort of all branches of our campus community - faculty, staff, students and alumni," said UNG Athletic Director Lindsay Reeves. "It is such a rewarding and personalized initiative because our student-athletes can relate to dreams and wishes."
In 2003, NCAA Division II formed an alliance with Make-A-Wish to connect student athletes to a charitable cause. In 2013, NCAA Division II chose five institutions that achieved exemplary fundraising results and rewarded them with the opportunity to host an on-campus wish party this year.
Eleven-year-old Joseph, whose full name was not released, will visit UNG to participate in events surrounding the university's Spirit Night for the men's and women's basketball teams, during which the details of his wish-come-true will be revealed to him. Joseph, who was diagnosed at 9 years old with a form of cancer known as Burkitt's lymphoma, wishes to travel to Hawaii.
UNG was recognized as one of the top five NCAA Division II institutions in the nation for its contributions to Make-A-Wish, and Joseph was selected to have his wish granted at UNG. Joseph will be signed as an honorary member of UNG's basketball team and will be introduced as the honorary sixth starter before the UNG's men's basketball game at 7:15 p.m., Feb. 13, following a mock press conference and other celebratory activities.
Joseph will be escorted throughout the day by various representatives of UNG athletics, including golfer and Make-A-Wish recipient Bridget Sandy. Sandy and fellow golfer LeeAnn Noble, also a Make-A-Wish recipient, were featured in the cover story of the fall 2013 issue of the NCAA's Champion Magazine.
"The Make-A-Wish Foundation allowed me and my family the privilege to go to Disney World and on a Disney cruise after my two-and-a-half-year battle with Leukemia," Sandy said. "This incredible foundation works miracles for those who have beaten the odds, and I am grateful to be one of those individuals as well as to attend a university that raises a lot of money for such an amazing cause."
Among all NCAA Division II schools, UNG has donated the highest amount of money to the Make-A-Wish Foundation in two of the past three academic years. UNG pledged the second most of all NCAA Division II schools in 2012-2013, raising $11,223.
The NCAA Division II alliance has generated nearly $3 million dollars in total for Make-A-Wish, including $517,000 in fiscal year 2013 alone. Fundraising at each institution is coordinated by the Student Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC), comprising student athletes from each sport.
Make-A-Wish grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. According to a 2011 U.S. study, most health professionals surveyed believe a wish-come-true has positive impacts on the health of children by giving children renewed strength to fight their illness and strengthening the entire family. Make-A-Wish is one of the world's leading children's charities, serving children in every community in the United States and its territories. Make-A-Wish has granted more than 240,000 wishes since its inception in 1980. Visit www.wish.org to learn more.