ATHENS – Georgia football fans deserve some congratulations, and they’re going to get it on Saturday.
If you’ve somehow missed the story about how the Bulldogs have stepped up to help the daughter of Austin Peay assistant coach Josh Eargle, do yourself a favor and go read about it. DawgNation reported last week how the Cairo connection between the Governors’ place-kicker and a UGA football and baseball player brought attention to the needs of the Eargle family and their financial struggles from taking care of their very ill, 5-year-old daughter, Landrey Eargle.
Austin Peay kicker Cole Phillips shared the Eargles’ story with two buddies from UGA – sophomore noseguard Koby Pyrz and sophomore pitcher Emerson Hancock – on social media. They, in turn, shared it with their teammates and on their social media platforms and directed followers to a fundraising campaign that the Governors started called #ForTheLoveOfLandrey.
Quickly, the whole movement went viral within the Dawg Nation. To make a long story short, a GoFundMe campaign that the Eargles reluctantly started to try to pay off $41,500 in medical debts has blown up.
When the Eargles’ story was first published last week on DawgNation.com, $22,000 had been raised toward that goal. As of Tuesday afternoon, the Eargles’ GoFundMe account had more than $101,000 in it.
They now have raised the goal to $124,000 in hopes of putting the money into a dedicated trust that would assure little Landrey Eargle gets the care and amenities she needs for what will be a life-long medical struggle with an extremely rare genetic disorder.
“’Glory, Glory to Old Georgia will have a new meaning to me now,” said Kristen Eargle, a former TV news anchor who works for Austin Peay as an in-house promotional media personality. “It now stands for some of the kindest, most generous people I’ve ever encountered. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
The Eargles will get an opportunity to show the Bulldog Nation their appreciation when Georgia and Austin Peay play in the season opener Saturday at Sanford Stadium. The family has produced a 30-second, thank-you video that UGA will air on their new videoboard at halftime and the whole family will be introduced on the field at that time.
In the meantime, the fund-raising campaign continues, so Georgia fans who may have missed out on this opportunity to help a deserving young family can still do so.
And, of course, the #ForTheLoveOfLandrey movement has continued to gain momentum. Once a struggle known only within the Austin Peay family, the miracle of social media now has brought it to the attention of other SEC fan bases and schools where the Eargles have made career stops, including Tennessee, LSU, Chattanooga and Memphis, where Eargle played offensive line and he and Kristen first met and fell in love.
“I get 10 calls a day from people wanting to come in here and give me money to give to Josh,” said Austin Peay head coach Will Healy. “Obviously, we’ve known about Landrey for a long time. We just never had any idea, because Josh and Kristen never wanted it to be about them, how much they actually needed help. Being willing to ask for help has been the biggest difference, and the response has been unbelievable.”
So now it’s “a thing.” When the Governors arrive at Sanford Stadium for their walk-through on Friday, they’ll be wearing their new “Team Landry” t-shirts. Many of them will be wearing “For The Love of Landrey” wrist bands that are being sold. Austin Peay players will sport a sticker on their helmets. ESPN, which is bringing Saturday’s game to a national-television audience, will be airing a piece on the Eargles during the broadcast.
“This thing’s hot, and we’ve got to keep it going,” Healy said. “Before all this happened, I had a conversation with Josh about it and he said he didn’t want to do anything to be a distraction to the football program. I said, ‘distraction? This is what we talk about all the time, about there being so much more to life than just football and that we’re a part of a family.’ This is not a distraction. This is a first-hand opportunity to practice what we preach. Our kids have bought into that, Georgia has bought into that and the reaction has been unbelievable.”
Nationally, No. 3 Georgia’s opener against this little FCS program from Clarksville, Tenn., isn’t going to command a lot of attention. But fortunately for a little girl who can’t talk and knows only that she doesn’t feel good most of the time, playing the Bulldogs is going to be a life-changing experience.
So be sure to keep your seats when “the Redcoats are coming” at halftime. And have a hanky handy.