In the midst of the devastating, heartbreaking floods in Louisiana that have killed at least seven people and forced authorities to rescue 20,000 people, there’s at least one glimmer of hope. The family of a paralyzed former college football player received aid from an unexpected place — unexpected, that is, unless you know the whole story.
For Devon Gales, life changed in the most dramatic of ways on September 26 of last year. That was the day the defensive back and special teams player from Southern University suffered a hit at the hands of University of Georgia kicker Marshall Morgan that left Gales paralyzed from the neck down.
Throughout his recovery, Gales has maintained a positive, winning attitude, and the University of Georgia has taken care of him at every turn. Players, alumni, and fans alike have adopted him into the Bulldog Nation, while coaches and staff have kept a close eye on him as he recovered at the Shepherd Center, a rehab facility in Atlanta specializing in recovery from spinal cord injuries. Gales has even recently begun moving his legs a little.
In February, an organization called Triumph Over Tragedy began working to provide the funds and resources to build a new, handicap-accessible home for the Gales family. Unfortunately, that home has not been built yet, and the Gales’ existing home was one of many ravaged by the floods.
They were in Atlanta last week to support Devon as he goes through his recovery. The only reason they came back to Baton Rouge was to celebrate Tish Gales’ birthday Sunday. They made the roughly seven-hour drive home in Tish’s car.
When they got home Friday, the water was visible but not obtrusive. When they woke up the next morning, the water near their house still wasn’t out of the ordinary after a strong summer rain storm.
“We were thinking we would ride it out, it’s just a little rain,” Tish Gales said. “It never floods in our neighborhood.”
But the rain didn’t let up. Donny Gales, Devon’s father, tried to move some sand left over from an addition to the back of the house as a sort of barricade, but the water kept its steady rise toward the house. The Gales family started packing its things.
As the Gales family struggled to get out of Baton Rouge to stay with extended family, they received a call from Bryan Gantt, the director of player wellness for the University of Georgia football program. The Bulldogs had bought tickets to fly the Gales back to Atlanta. Once they arrived in Georgia, a car dealership near the university provided them with a vehicle.
When a local news outlet reached out to Gantt for comment via text, he replied, “They’re fine. They are with me now.”
The family of Devon Gales continues to express their amazement and gratitude to the University of Georgia and its fan base over their support through the past 11 months.
The outpouring of support from the Georgia community has been overwhelming for the Gales family. This latest example was almost too much.
“They’ve already done so much,” Tish Gales said. “To even think that they would attempt to do more for us, it only warms my heart. There are so many good people within that university — I haven’t met one person yet that made me think twice about being a part of their community or just being in their presence.
“They’re such good people and they genuinely care for Devon. Whatever it is he needs, what can we do — it’s never anything else except ‘What can we do to help?’”
Triumph Over Tragedy is continuing to raise the money for an accessible home for Devon and his family. To donate, please visit givetotriumph.org.