Photo by Ben Beitzel

Photo by Ben Beitzel

Football season is just around the corner. In just a few weeks, the University of Georgia football players will put on the pads and start their preparations for the 2010 season.

Right now however, the focus for the SEC program is on the 2010 Countdown to Kickoff event, which will be held on July 16-17 in Athens.

The 2010 event marks the fifth year the Georgia Bulldog nation will come together to put on the event to support Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Children's Tumor Foundation, Georgia Transplant Foundation and the UGA College of Education's Pediatric Exercise and Motor Development Clinic. The two-day event will be hosted again by former Bulldogs David Greene and Jon and Matt Stinchcomb, all Gwinnett grads.

"We are all from the state of Georgia and we all had the opportunity to play and attend the University of Georgia and given the experiences that we had, you want to find a way to somehow contribute back to not just your school but also your state," said Parkview product Matt Stinchcomb, a former NFL lineman like his younger brother Jon, who is still playing with the Saints. "And the universal demographic is children and there are obviously some distinct needs in that area. So to be able to impact your school and still be a part of that program as well as have an influence and support these charities was kind of a win in 360 degrees."

In the previous four years, the event has raised more than $500,000. In 2010, the goal is to raise $150,000 for the organizations.

"Last year we had a family come out and give their testimony on what Georgia Transplant meant to their family and you look at what Children's Healthcare of Atlanta does on a daily basis and what the Tumor Foundation does and all four of these charities just do amazing things for these kids and their families," said Greene, a former UGA quarterback and a South Gwinnett grad. "So over the last four years to have raised over half a million dollars for these charities and almost all these families are already going through turmoil with their kids having to be involved and just being able to give back and leverage the University of Georgia and give back to these charities is a win-win."

The event will kick off July 16 with a 92-person charity golf tournament at the UGA Championship golf course. The event will feature both present and past UGA players. The event will continue the next day with the Fan Festival, which allows fans to come compete in drills with current and past NFL and UGA players along with enjoying an autograph session.

"What is nice about this event is the fan base of Dawg Nation is a constant," Jon Stinchcomb said. "Whether you play for them now or you are on a past team, there is still the support of that fan base, and it is enduring."

In previous seasons, the list of guests have included national champion head coach Vince Dooley, former Bulldogs Garrison Hearst, Mohamed Massaquoi, Joe Cox, Ben Watson, Buck Belue, Randall Godfrey and Scott Woerner. Among the players expected to make an appearance at the 2010 event are former Bulldog and current Tennessee Titan and Brookwood grad Rennie Curran, former UGA quarterback D.J. Shockley, former running back Kregg Lumpkin, and from the 1980 national championship team, Frank Ros and Amp Arnold.

"The kids obviously want to go out there and get their picture taken with A.J. Green, but the dad who's taking the son might want his picture taken with someone from the 1980 team, whether it is Buck Belue or someone," Greene said. "I think that by everyone coming out it makes it more attractive for everyone. Some of these younger guys, they want to meet some of the previous players from the University of Georgia."

"I know when we all went through UGA that they had programs that are there to specifically expose the athletes to the various platforms that they can use to give back," Matt Stinchcomb said.

"The fact that you wear a helmet with a Georgia G on it and the fact that you get to wear that jersey, that can mean a lot to a kid that you get to visit or an elderly person."

The July 17 Fan Festival is available for up to 1,500 people. Tickets are $25 a person or $75 for a family of four. Tickets can be purchased at www.ugakickoff.com.

"Getting out there and being able to interact with the kids and the families, that is what this is all about," Greene said. "It is about getting out there and throwing the ball around with some little kids that grow up wanting to be University of Georgia football players, and every year is different. You meet different people and sometimes you meet the same people. Overall, it is a fun day. Fans can come out there and buy tickets and meet the players they want, and the revenue is generated to go to these charities."