In front of a record crowd at UNG’s Haines & Carolyn Hill Stadium, 13-year -old Emmalee Watkins, who has a life-threatening illness, was granted a wish of a dream vacation with her family.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation and UNG revealed the wish on March 29 in between games of a softball doubleheader to honor Watkins. Watkins, of Acworth, Georgia, signed a one-day contract, wore a team jersey with her name and number, and was listed on the team roster in the leadoff spot. Watkins watched the game from the UNG dugout, surrounded by her new teammates.
“We’re really excited to have Emmalee in the leadoff spot for us; she epitomizes what a leadoff hitter does — she’s very competitive, she battles, and I think she’s going to set a great example for her new teammates,” Coach Mike Davenport said before the game.
After the first game, a member of the UNG Corps of Cadets made a special delivery to Watkins. Yellow smoke from a hill high above left field gave way to the cadet zip-lining down onto the field with briefcase in hand, containing “top secret information” for Watkins’ eyes only.
“Dear Emmalee Watkins,” Watkins read aloud to the crowd, “in just one week, you and your family will be granted your wish, and will be going to Turks and Caicos for a six-day vacation at the Beaches Resort. Sincerely, the Nighthawk Nation.”
The doubleheader was broadcast nationally by ESPN3. The broadcast marked several firsts for both UNG and the NCAA – it was the first time any on-campus baseball or softball games aired on ESPN3 as part of Division II’s new media agreement with ESPN.
In 2015, UNG’s Department of Athletics raised more than $11,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, marking the fifth consecutive year that UNG has been one of the top five fundraisers among NCAA Division II schools.