Each summer, University of Georgia football coaches and their families take a retreat at Lake Oconee.
“It’s sort of the last hurrah with the families before the husbands have to kind of disappear,” said Katharyn Richt, wife of Georgia head coach Mark.
It’s a lot of family bonding and a little bit brainstorming.
At each getaway, the wives have a meeting of their own, and among the items on the agenda is narrowing down the myriad ways they hope to productively spend their time in the fall, including through charitable works.
Making a decision on which direction to go hardly took much discussion at their most recent meeting.
Linebackers coach Kirk Olivadatti was hired in February 2011, and within a few months of the move, his daughter, 4-year-old Kasyn, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Since, the Olivadatti family has spent much of its time at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
“This year, with the Olivadatti family coming to town and everything that took place with their daughter, it made sense to do something that revolved around cancer,” said Paige Grantham, wife of defensive coordinator Todd. “It didn’t all have to be about Kasyn or revolve around her specifically, but we wanted to do something that helped what she was going through and what other families in that situation are going through.”
Within a few weeks, the wives had spearheaded a VIP tour and luncheon at the Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall that, with help from a WSB Radio telethon, brought in $40,000 to benefit the Aflac Cancer Center.
More recently, the wives worked with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta recently to establish the Kaysn Cares Fund, which will benefit pediatric cancer research at the Aflac Cancer Center.
As part of that initiative, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s portion of the proceeds from today’s 7 p.m. Georgia-Kennesaw State baseball game at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville — the Gwinnett Baseball Classic — will be given to the fund.
Through all of the worry and fear, there have been plenty of positives. Kasyn is now in remission, and the experience brought the families closer than ever, Katharyn said.
“I think it was huge for Keely and Kirk and (their son) Kruze,” Katharyn said. “They might have just moved here a month of so before she got diagnosed, and they’ve been in Atlanta so much of the time since. Even though we haven’t gotten to know them as well as we would have if they were living in Athens every day, it brought us all closer together.”
The families prepared meals, took regular trips to the hospital and even brought their other children for a princess-themed tea party in December.
“I’ve tried to put myself in their shoes,” Paige said. “They were with the (Washington Redskins) for more than 10 years, then all of the sudden they move to Georgia. They know no one. I don’t think they hardly knew their neighbors when (the diagnosis was made). I just can’t imagine going through what they went through without a support system, and we wanted to do something to help other people who were in that situation.”