Very special people from the University of Georgia and the UGA Student Government Association are joining forces today for the annual Dress Down with the Dawgs event.
The initiative is ESP at the biggest UGA event and fundraiser of the year. According to a press release from the organization, the event will ask the community to dress casually for the Georgia vs Kentucky soccer game in support of people with Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities.
According to UGA ESP President Brenna Butler, UGA’s ESP is a campus affiliate of the Watkinsville-based nonprofit Extra Special People. The organization offers programs such as extracurricular activities and summer camps for participants.
“It really only exists to help individuals of all abilities thrive in the community,” said Butler, an economics and environmental management student.
ESP at UGA sells shirts, buttons and stickers to raise funds through the Dress Down event. According to the press release, 70% of official proceeds from the Dress Down merchandise goes to a scholarship fund to help people with disabilities attend the organization’s summer camp and after-school programs.
In addition to supporting the cause by purchasing Dress Down products, community members can choose to forgo formal wear for Saturday’s game and dress casually to send a message of acceptance, support and awareness raising.
“I love that we can use our voices to raise awareness for such an important cause and support communities on campus that don’t always get enough love,” Carter Marks, president of UGA SGA, said in the statement. Press.
On Friday night, ESP at UGA hosted a tailgate at the Beta Upsilon Chi House to kick off the celebrations. Fight songs were performed by members of the Redcoat Marching Band and activities included painting and a bounce house.
Emily White, Vice President of Advocacy, helped distribute Dress Down products to the community and to the reunion court.
“Dressing means a lot to me,” said White, who has a disability. “[ESP at UGA] is important to me because of the amazing people I know.
ESP participants will have front row seats at Sanford Stadium and wear Spike Squad shoulder pads.
“[Participants] being able to experience it all firsthand is my favorite part, and just knowing that they see all the support from the community inside Sanford Stadium, ”said Butler.
This year, ESP at UGA has also partnered with the University of Kentucky Student Government. According to Butler, the partnership aims to promote Dress Down legislation in student government across the SEC.
Butler recalls his involvement in the organization in its first year, in which ESP at UGA had 20-30 members. Today, the organization has more than 200 active members on campus.
“The support of the UGA community has meant a lot to… our club and the ESP as a whole,” said Butler.