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Shepherd Center Named Beneficiary of UGA's Game Ball Relay Sept. 1

In partnership with Relay of Heroes, LLC, the University of Georgia Athletic Association will execute the inaugural Game Ball Relay (GBR), a 24-hour, foot-powered relay, delivering a game ball from Atlanta to Sanford Stadium for kickoff of the UGA vs. Buffalo football game, on Saturday, September 1.

 “The Game Ball Relay is a great opportunity for the Bulldog Nation to connect with and celebrate the excitement of a new season of Georgia football as well as contribute to a great cause in the Shepherd Center,” said UGA Director of Athletics Greg McGarity.

Members of the UGA 1980 national championship team will launch the GBR from Atlanta’s Shepherd Center at 10:00 a.m., on Friday, August 31. After carrying the ball through Shepherd Center, the relay will proceed onto the streets of Atlanta, passing landmarks such as Centennial Olympic Park, the CNN Center, and the State Capitol. After touring Atlanta on Friday, the GBR team and UGA Army ROTC Cadets will run the ball overnight, to Athens, engaging Georgia fans in Stone Mountain, Loganville, Snellville, and Monroe.

As the relay arrives on Saturday in Athens, the game ball will tour the streets of Athens and the UGA Campus. A pre-game tailgate will be held at the Butts-Mehre Athletic Complex, where a final fan-led escort, the Red Zone March, will begin at 11:00 a.m. Dedicated members of the Bulldog Nation will march from Butts-Mehre to Sanford Stadium, where the game ball will arrive for 50-yard line delivery at approximately 12:20 p.m., escorted by a UGA Letterman as the premier presenter.

Relay of Heroes, LLC is responsible for planning and executing the GBR. In accordance with its mission, Relay of Heroes has chosen Shepherd Center as this year’s direct beneficiary. To display the power of Georgia Football, UGA and Relay of Heroes are asking dedicated Georgia fans to join the relay as Red Zone Warriors, the fans who will escort the game ball on the Red Zone March, from the Butts-Mehre Athletic Complex to Sanford Stadium.

With a limit of 500 Red Zone Warriors in the relay’s inaugural year, Georgia fans can sign-up now. To become a Red Zone Warrior, members of the Bulldog Nation can donate $100 to the Game Ball Relay fund at the Shepherd Center Foundation, reserving one slot per $100 donation. Donations can be made online, via the “Donate Now” button on the Game Ball Relay’s homepage, or donors can mail checks to Relay of Heroes, 220 College Avenue, Suite 319, Athens, GA 30601. Checks should be made payable to “Shepherd Center Foundation;” donors should indicate “Game Ball Relay” and t-shirt size(s) in the memo line.

UGA letterman and Terry College of Business graduate Wes Van Dyk created the idea of the GBR. 

“I was able to see first-hand the impact that these organizations have on so many lives, including my own,” said Van Dyk, motivated by an interest to give back to Georgia football and recognize the efforts of Shepherd Center. “Two of my friends and fellow UGA athletes, Chance (Veazey) and JT (Johnathan Taylor), were both treated at Shepherd. I feel very fortunate for the opportunity to give back a small portion of what I have been blessed with during my years at UGA, by celebrating with the Game Ball Relay.”

Relay of Heroes, LLC is an Athens-based marketing firm whose mission is to create, plan, and execute experiential marketing events that serve as a catalyst for non-profit fundraising. In the summer of 2011, Relay of Heroes worked with Kangaroo Express to launch the convenience store chain’s Salute Our Troops campaign which raised more than $2.5 million in direct benefit of the USO, the largest contribution of its kind, to the Organization. More recently, in May 2012, Relay of Heroes helped Carry the Load, a non-profit founded by a group of former Navy SEALs, raise more than $500,000 with its inaugural 1,700 mile foot relay from West Point, NY to Dallas, TX.

Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, GA, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord or brain injury. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation and is a 152-bed facility. Last year Shepherd Center had 965 admissions to its inpatient programs and 571 to its day patient programs. In addition, Shepherd Center sees more than 6,600 people annually, on an outpatient basis. For more information, visit Shepherd Center online at

Additional information for the 2012 UGA Game Ball Relay can be found through the following online sources:

Official Website:



About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.