Georgia Bulldogs make due with ‘virtual’ Camp Sunshine

Camp Sunshine commander-in-chief Mo Thrash (with mic) introduces Georgia coach Kirby Smart (R) to campers and Georgia players during the Bulldogs' visit to the Camp Twin Lakes facility for critically-ill children in 2018. (Chip Towers/Chip.Towers@coxinccom)
Camp Sunshine commander-in-chief Mo Thrash (with mic) introduces Georgia coach Kirby Smart (R) to campers and Georgia players during the Bulldogs' visit to the Camp Twin Lakes facility for critically-ill children in 2018. (Chip Towers/Chip.Towers@coxinccom)

About this time every year, Georgia football players head to Rutledge by the busloads to hang out with special-needs kids, critically ill patients and cancer survivors for what they call “Camp Sunshine.” The coronavirus pandemic prevented the Bulldogs from going there this year, but not from doing their self-proclaimed duty to raise spirits of the camp attendees.

Instead, coach Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs conducted a “Virtual Dance-off” with the children via a massive video conference call Friday. Hosted by Smart and his brother, Karl, a leukemia survivor who attended Camp Sunshine during his treatments, two DJs played music while children logging in from all over competed against football players to determine who had the best dance moves.

“I know our players are pumped about it because every day in the locker room they turn the music up so loud that the floor in my office literally shakes,” Smart told the would-be campers. “These guys throw down and dance all the time.”

With that, Smart introduced the players participating on the call, including All-SEC cornerback Eric Stokes, defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt and punter/place-kicker Jake Camarda. Each claimed to have the best dance moves. None of them unequivocally proved it.

In the end, no winner was determined. You can see a edited replay of the Zoom call on the UGA Athletics website.

Camp Sunshine is an organization that provides year-round programs for children with cancer and their families. They hold a two-week summer camp and several weekend camps at Camp Twin Lakes in addition to programs throughout Georgia.

The Bulldogs visit one day each week of the camp. They spend the entire day touring the expansive grounds and interacting with the kids. The highlight always is a dodge-ball game between mixed teams of campers, football players and Smart.

“Camp Sunshine has meant so much to our family,” Smart said. “I’m so sad that this year the kids don’t get to actually go to camp. But you know what? Camp Sunshine can make the best of whatever they get, and this virtual party tonight is going to be better than anything we’ve had.”

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