When the NIL decision was announced this summer, five Georgian soccer players began working to leverage their status to benefit causes close to their hearts. These players knew they could make a bigger difference by working on the same team rather than alone.
Payne Walker, Stetson Bennett, John FitzPatrick, Owen Condon and John Staton formed the DGD Fund – meaning “Damn Good Dawg”. The fund gives people the opportunity to donate money which will be distributed among five different charities chosen by the players. The new NIL rules allow players to be associated with the fund.
âWe kind of saw this as an opportunity to use our name, image and likeness to give back to the community,â Walker said. âWe kind of got together one day and we were like, ‘We can really make a difference in the community and help these organizations. “
Each player chose a different organization based on their personal experiences, and each cause meant something more to each individual player. Players were involved in organizations before the new NCAA legislation and knew they wanted to use the new rule to work with charities they were already familiar with.
Condon chose the ALS Association because his grandfather died of complications from ALS. FitzPatrick chose the American Brain Tumor Association in honor of a family member who died of glioblastoma. Staton chose Hilinkski’s Hope, an organization focused on the mental health of student-athletes after losing a friend to suicide. Bennett picked the Boys and Girls Club of America while Payne picked Happy Feat, two organizations that players were part of before forming the fund.
The fund collects money for donations through its website, which goes through the Athens Region Community Foundation to make the donation. The fund was launched on September 6 and in the first 24 hours it raised over $ 10,000.
âWe knew if we did it the right way and had the right people to help us, what we got, that it would be huge,â Walker said. “I don’t know if over $ 10,000, honestly, in 24 hours was going to come.”
How it works
The players started planning the fund in the summer before the start of fall camp and school. Walker said they would meet in the Butts-Mehre building in the afternoon after practice to plan for its eventual launch.
The fund is still waiting to obtain non-profit status and, in the meantime, is working with the Athens Region Community Foundation. The foundation serves as an advisory fund for donors until they achieve 501c3 status, which Payne says could take up to a year.
Kipper Koslowsky, director of donor services for the Athens Region Community Foundation, said the players arrived at their first meeting prepared and knew what they wanted.
âWhat they’re working on is starting a non-profit organization, but they didn’t want to wait to start fundraising,â Koslowsky said. “So we were able to help them get started while they worked to create this non-profit organization.”
Continuation of the fund
With the players in school and playing football, their schedules are very busy. However, as the players started working on the fund in the summer, they can study, play sports and continue working on the fund as the initial launch phase is over.
Georgia football is currently two games away in the season, with 10 games remaining in the regular season, which ends Nov. 27 against Georgia Tech. Despite the long season and busy schedules, Walker said the players have learned time management skills to continue working on the fund throughout the season.
âWe’re all very passionate about this, and we’re going to set aside time to keep working on it every day, every week,â Walker said.
The five players involved in the fund are upper class students, with Walker, FitzPatrick and Condon in their junior season. Bennett is a senior while Staton is a graduate student.
Because the players’ time in Athens is temporary, they discussed plans to keep the fund in Georgia’s football program. Walker said the players would like to continue to be part of the fund after leaving Athens.
âWe obviously want him to be alive when we’re goneâ¦ kind of leave him as a legacy to the UGA football team as something they can defend,â Walker said.