In a city where college football (particularly SEC football) takes over every weekend in the fall, it’s often easy to forget that the people on the field are real people off the field.
I live for Georgia football (GO DAWGS!). So … one of the many reasons I love working at Hope-Beckham is because legendary Georgia football coach Vince Dooley is often a part of our work events. He was honored at the ALS Association Georgia Chapter’s third annual Heroes Among Us luncheon at the end of August for his contribution to the nonprofit. When asked why he was being honored along with ALS advocate Linda Williams, Coach Dooley said he didn’t really know why he was being honored but that he was very humbled.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a specific disease which causes the death of neurons controlling voluntary muscles. Coach Dooley had three former UGA football players who suffered from this disease. Dooley said, “When it happens to someone who’s close to you, then it becomes family, because the football team is a family. So then, you not only feel the loss as a coach, but you feel for the families who suffered the loss even more. You get to know them.”
Coach Dooley was introduced by Linda Schwak, the widow of one of his former players. She talked about how much Coach Dooley impacted her family and how, when her husband was diagnosed with ALS, Coach Dooley was always around. Her daughter Erin hosted a fundraising golf tournament to benefit the ALS Association, and Coach Dooley donated several signed footballs to be auctioned at the event.
It’s amazing to me – a diehard Georgia Bulldog – to know that Coach Dooley is 85-years-old and still using his “celebrity status” for good. He said, “It’s the backbone of the American way to volunteer. And there are so many wonderful causes out there. Whenever a person does that, they always come away happy because they benefit even more than what they’re volunteering for.” Well, Coach, you made an impact on me – I’m excited to give back to the community like you’re doing!