UGA hockey team once again makes trip to children’s hospital in Savannah

This annual trip is the highlight of the Ice Dawgs weekend
Published: Jan. 13, 2023 at 3:23 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - It’s one of the UGA Ice Dawgs favorite stops in Savannah each year: the Dwaine and Cynthia Willett Children’s Hospital.

Last year, due to COVID, they had to cut their visit short and stay outside.

On Friday, they were able to come back inside and meet some of their youngest and toughest fans face-to-face.

A stop, that in reality, may mean more to the players than the kids.

Of course, the UGA Ice Dawgs have it circled on the calendar.

“I mean this is the trip we look forward to all year,” said Captain Matt Bigda.

A moment that truly brings out their best.

“This is a favorite part of our weekend,” added fellow Ice Dawg Robby Whitwer.

No, it’s not on the ice, but here at the Dwaine and Cynthia Willett Children’s Hospital.

“This is something that the kids look forward to every year. The kids love having the Georgia Ice Dawgs here to visit with them,” said Assistant Chief Nursing Officer Heather Newsome.

While playing in front of a packed house is great, these fans seem to provide a boost you can’t find in an arena.

“Every single time we come in and these kids say, ‘Go Dawgs’ it gives you a little extra motivation and get the job done,” said Whitwer.

And sure they’ve seen some tough guys on the ice, but there are perhaps none tougher than the kids they met Friday.

“These kids are fighting real life battles. We get a chance to go out on the ice and compete for 60 minutes but after that the war is over and we go back to our real lives, but for these kids it’s a constant,” said Whitwer.

While they’ve certainly made some new fans, what they did on this day may be the biggest win of the weekend.

“This is one of those things that, again, generates a lot of excitement for them and really helps them with a little bit of normalization as they’re here in the hospital, a place they really don’t want to be. This will help them get excited, get out of the bed, and really just enhance their healing experience for them,” said Newsome.

Plus, it shows even hockey players have a soft side.

“It definitely pulls on the heart strings a little bit being able to see them. They’re all rooting for us and we’re rooting for them. It’s really cool to have this group of fans,” said Bigda.