UGA Football players visit with Extra Special People after Thursday practice

It’s the bye week for the University of Georgia football team, which typically means it’s a time for polishing any mistakes made up to this point in the season, and sneaking in some good rest and relaxation at times to get healthy.  But after Thursday’s practice, instead of rushing off the field to the training tables or back to their dorms, Bulldog players were greeted by several of their best friends through Extra Special People, a nonprofit serving families and children with special needs in the 26-county area surrounding Watkinsville, Ga., since 1987.

ESP’s annual Bulldogs and Buddies event with UGA Football players offers the team a chance to give their support to children with special needs who are huge Dawg fans. More than 150 ESP participants showered the players with hugs, requests for autographs and photos to commemorate the special day.

“We appreciate Coach Smart and the UGA Football team taking time for some of their biggest fans. ESP works to provide typical experiences to kids of all abilities, bringing them life’s greatest joys,” said Laura Whitaker, Executive Director of ESP. “However each year, the players and coaches have told us that this event brings them incredible joy. Kids with disabilities have the ability to break down barriers and bringing smiles to all faces. It’s a win-win for everyone who came out today.”

In its seventh year, Bulldogs and Buddies offers ESP participants the opportunity to visit with players after practice. Many current and past players including Jake Fromm, Aaron Murray and Lorenzo Carter have gone on to volunteer and advocate for ESP after their positive experience at Bulldawgs and Buddies.

All season long, in celebration of Down Syndrome Awareness month, ESP is encouraging UGA fans to “Dress Down for the Dawgs” by dressing casually at the home games and tagging their photos on social media with #DressDownfortheDawgs. ESP aims to bring awareness to Down Syndrome and offer a fun way to support its participants of all abilities.

ESP is an organization based in Watkinsville, Ga., that empowers individuals with special needs through eight weeks of annual summer camp, 19 after school enrichment programs, and ongoing family support and counseling. ESP currently serves more than 300 individuals with special needs and their families throughout 26 counties in Georgia, helping these families engage, connect and thrive while never paying more than 25 percent of the cost of any program. To learn more about Extra Special People, visit

About Extra Special People

Extra Special People, Inc., (ESP), a 501 (c)(3) is a nonprofit serving families and children with special needs in the 26-county area surrounding Watkinsville, Ga., since 1987. With ever-expanding after-school programs, weekend clubs, an eight-week long summer camp and family resources, ESP now reaches more than 300 children, with an ongoing dream of reaching every Northeast Georgia family that has a need and a desire to help their special child grow and thrive.

Contributing to this dream was the addition of 70 acres in Jackson County in December 2014. Camp Hooray will one day continue the ESP mission by hosting overnight camps, weekend retreats and events for children and families of all abilities.

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