ATHENS, Ga. (AP) Devon Gales, the Southern wide receiver who suffered a paralyzing neck injury during a September football game at Georgia, is returning to his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with the promise his family soon will have a new home designed to accommodate his needs.
Gales' parents, Donny and Tanisha Gales, wiped tears from their eyes on Thursday when it was announced funds are being raised for a new home accessible to his wheelchair. Thursday's press conference was designed to give the family a chance to say thank you to the Georgia community one day after Devon was released from the Shepherd Spinal Center in Atlanta.
The announcement about a fundraising campaign for a new home apparently came as a surprise for the Gales.
Reggie Jones and Wesley Jones of the Triumph Over Tragedy Foundation unveiled the campaign to build the new home. The foundation is selling shirts with the Georgia ''G'' logo as the first letter in ''Gales.''
''We've been able to help several families and do modifications for their homes and unfortunately the Gales' home is one that really can't be modified,'' said Wesley Jones. ''So ... starting today, we're going to raise money and we're going to build these guys a brand new home. That's what they deserve and that's what we're going to do.''
Soon after the announcement, the foundation's website was overwhelmed by the traffic.
''Hearing this, it's just been mind-blowing,'' said Gales' father, Donny Gales. ''We were preparing to build a house but not knowing this was going to happen. ... It took a lot of pressure off me as far as wondering what I'm going to do or how we're going to modify the house we're in now because we're in a three-bedroom house and it's five of us.''
Gales' step-mother, Tanisha, said she has been with Devon since the injury on Sept. 26, with the exception of three trips back to Baton Rouge.
''It's been a challenge but I wouldn't trade it for the world,'' said Tanisha Gales.
Devon Gales, who sat in a wheelchair, can't walk but moved his arms and said he is encouraged by having more feeling in his legs and feet.
''I know I'm going to walk,'' he said.
Gales has received warm receptions during recent appearances at Georgia football and basketball games.
''It's just been amazing to know there are still beautiful people out in the world,'' he said. ''There are still people that love and care about other people.''
Gales said he wanted to give thanks to Georgia ''for everything.'' He spoke of former Georgia coach Mark Richt, associate athletic director for sports medicine Ron Courson and football program coordinator Bryant Gantt, who he said has been ''the right-hand man for everything.''
''I've made coach Gantt my godfather,'' Gales said.
Lovie Tabron, Southern's assistant athletic director for sports medicine, said the Jaguars ''gained a huge family with the Bulldog Nation. On behalf of Southern University, I would like to say thank you all for your support and your love.''
Richt now is Miami's coach.
Donny Gales said Richt told him after Devon's injury '''Y'all are part of the Bulldog Nation and are going to be taken care of.'
''That's what happened. He stuck to his word.''
Gales said he was looking forward to finally being back home.
''I just want to go see my teammates,'' he said. ''That's the first thing I want to do. I haven't seen them in five months. I just want to let them know I'm OK and I will be fine.''
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