Before the Georgia football team could pack out Sanford Stadium for G-Day, it filled a smaller field as it faced off against a different kind of opponent.
That opponent was cancer.
As the night kicked off, more and more players showed up to show support. Lining the initial walk, Georgia football’s Nick Chubb stood with his teammates and they demonstrated something you don’t usually see in practice. High fives back and forth were exchanged between the Bulldogs and survivors as they cheer them on their first lap.
It was’t just the football team that showed up to join the fight. The entire student athlete organization had a booth where photos were taken, donations were collected and more than $3300 dollars were raised by just the athletes alone. Amanda Dachs, a third year volleyball player, couldn’t stop smiling when she realized they had raised more this year than any other year.
“My family, like a bunch of other families has been affected by cancer so that alone sparked a flame in me that hasn’t really dulled,” Dachs said. “But also SAAC- all the student athletes this year we just decided we really want to impact this community that has given so much to us.”
Dachs worked directly with Ellie Kaplan, Relay’s student athlete coordinator. For Kaplan, Relay has always been one of her passions. After joining freshman year, she knew she wanted to stay involved as long as she could. This year Kaplan had a special opportunity, she was able to introduce her aunt, Jaime Kaplan, a former UGA Athlete and cancer survivor.
“My aunt was diagnosed in 2010, she was the first person close to me when I started really understanding how cancer affected our world,” Kaplan said. “She’s always been one of my biggest inspirations.”
Kaplan led her aunt to the stage and introduced her as the first speaker. As Jaime took the stage, the crowd fell silent. The athletes sat on the ground with their eyes fixated on her speech as each word fell from her lips. Jaime’s story hit home for the student athletes, a healthy, athletic young woman who had played at Wimbledon five times.
How could she be sick with cancer?
Jaime recalled her initial reaction to her diagnosis and left the student athletes with a piece of wisdom that had been shared with her, “because you take care of yourself, you are better equipped to fight cancer.”
Applause bellowed from the audience as Jaime descended from the stage. Greeted by hugs, tears, and a few smiles, she thanked the organization for all it’s work.
The event continued long after Jaime’s speech, with activities until 7 a.m. Although the teams don’t usually join together to take down a defendant, the UGA student athletes proved that there is nothing that runs deeper than the red and black.
It should be noted that Relay as a whole raised $177,226.74 this year for the event.
By Natalie Roe