Dress Down initiative

Extra Special People encouraged football fans to "dress down" at football games in support of Down syndrome awareness in both 2018 and 2019.

This Saturday, Oct. 12, Extra Special People at UGA is calling for football game attendees to wear something different than the typical polo shirts and dresses.

ESP at UGA, which helps people with disabilities as well as their families, is encouraging football fans to “dress down” for the Oct. 12 Georgia-South Carolina game to raise awareness for people with Down syndrome.

Although ESP promotes “Dress Down for the Dawgs” every home game, it has ramped up for the South Carolina game because October is National Down Syndrome Awareness Month, said ESP at UGA President Daniela Conroy.

Freshman Emily White is a sports medicine major in the Destination Dawgs program, which helps students with intellectual disabilities obtain a UGA Certificate in College and Career Readiness over the course of five semesters. She said it “feels good” to know that people are working together to raise awareness about an organization that works with students like her.

“Supporting means a lot, and I’d like to thank everyone for doing this,” White said.

The organization is also asking that participants post pictures on various social media platforms with the hashtag #DressDownwiththeDawgs to further raise awareness. Conroy said the main message of this initiative is to “redefine the way people think about others with disabilities.”

“At ESP, we always talk about ‘person-first language.’ That’s when you refer to who the individual is before what their disability is because the person is more important,” Conroy said. “We really want to focus on the person and who they are and what their abilities are.”

The UGA Student Government Association Senate unanimously passed a proclamation in support of the initiative last week. The proclamation encourages students, faculty and staff to participate.

Over a hundred miles away, USC Student Government has been working with ESP at UGA to encourage its own students to dress casually for the game. According to an ESP at UGA press release, this joint legislation is “the first time in SEC history that two schools [student governments] have come together to sign identical proclamations.”

Allison Fine, UGA SGA Senator for Access and Opportunity and Head of the Committee on Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity, hopes to experience a sense of unity among students.

“We’re really excited that the game is going to be the first time that the SEC is competing but also joining together for something,” Fine said.

The collaboration was kick-started by UGA SGA, which reached out to the USC Student Government, said Austin Smith, USC Student Government communications director.

“I think that’s why they reached out to us because we have the ability to capture another audience that can rally behind this cause,” Smith said.

Smith said that at first, the campaign had been spread at USC primarily through word of mouth. USC SG and UGA SGA then decided to promote the collaboration on social media.

Downtown clothing store Tailgate Georgia has partnered with ESP to promote the initiative by selling official Dress Down T-shirts at its store on East Broad Street. With each shirt purchased, 10% of the proceeds will go toward ESP.

Customers can choose from a selection of colors in both men’s and women’s styles. Tailgate also has a custom printer to transfer the official design onto a blank T-shirt or sweatshirt. Sakura Maeda, Tailgate’s marketing manager, said partnering with local nonprofits is one of the store’s missions.

ESP members will also be selling buttons, which students will be able to pick up along with stickers at a picnic hosted by ESP on New College Lawn at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 11. There will be guide dogs, corn hole, a photo booth and music. Pins can also be purchased through an order form found on the organization’s social media platforms.