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Rutledge resident and friend bond as ‘Silver Dawgs’

October 22, 2021 - 00:00
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    Dixon and Terry go to every Georgia home game.
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    The pair of Dixon and Terry met in 2018 during a game. Both are avid Georgia fans and were at the set of SEC Nation last week holding up a sign supporting the Bulldogs. LANCE McCURLEY/Staff

Morgan County native Beryl Dixon and Athens resident Chuck Terry met several years ago when volunteering for the UGA Athletic Association’s ‘Silver Dawgs’ Program during the 2018 football season.

Silver Dawgs are easily recognized at UGA home football games by their silver shirts and straw hats. Plus, the volunteers are always wearing their name tags, so they are easily identified. The group is a collection of “game day ambassadors” that are stationed outside different gates of Sanford Stadium. The Silver Dawgs are there to welcome fans and answer any questions that come their way.

The program started after Georgia’s 2017 trip to Notre Dame and is attributed to the school’s “Green Jacket” association, which provides Fighting Irish and opposing fans with greetings and smiles. A member of the University of Georgia Athletic Association thought it would be a great idea to have a program like that in Athens. So, the Silver Dawgs started standing outside Sanford Stadium gates at the start of the 2018 season.

“The program goes through OLLI at UGA, which stands for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute,” Dixon said. “That’s how they contacted people, and the goal was to target people who are retired. So, they asked for volunteers and that’s how it got started. I sent my application in after hearing about it.”

According to Terry, there are three OLLI programs in the state of Georgia, which cater to people over the age of 50.

“The University of Georgia branch has over 1,000 members in the Greater Athens Area,” Terry said. “So, that’s how I also became involved with the Silver Dawgs program through OLLI.”

Both Dixon and Terry met after volunteering for the program in 2018. Needless to say, it has sparked a friendship and the two are always at each other’s side, especially on a Saturday in Athens.

Dixon, who is originally from Morgan County, said she was “born to be a Silver Dawg”. However, Terry had a much different story of how he became involved with the program.

“My wife passed away in 2016,” Terry said. “After that, I spent a year with my grandchildren - this was all in Wisconsin. In 2018, I wanted to move, which led me to try and figure out what I was going to do with the rest of my life.”

Terry said he started searching for places around the country to live, which is how he found the Classic City.

“I was attracted to Athens because it has an Osher Lifelong Learning Institue nearby at UGA,” Terry said. “It gave me an opportunity to meet people my age and do different activities. I also wanted to go somewhere where I had no family and didn’t know anybody. I wanted to start over. Period.”

So, that’s how Terry ended up in Athens and where he met Dixon. Both are currently the same age and enjoy connecting over activities they share an interest in. The pair enjoy bringing a smile to Georgia fans and to those of the opponents. It’s something that brings them together while also interacting with other OLLI members.

“We want to make sure everyone feels welcome, and we want to help people,” Dixon said. “We’re just the hospitality team and doing it with Chuck is great. It’s great showing him what the Bulldog lifestyle is about and he’s caught on pretty well.”

Game days are tough, long and difficult to navigate for some; however, both Dixon and Terry thoroughly enjoy them.

“We pick up our credentials and have a meal beforehand, but it just depends on what time the game is,” Dixon said. “We report and are supposed to be at our assigned place when the gates open, which is two hours before the start of game.”

The Silver Dawgs are assigned to either a gate to work at or are assisting persons with disabilities into the stadium.

“We also help people with their tickets and point them to where their seats are,” Dixon said. “It’s really anything.”

Dixon has been a Georgia football season ticket holder since 1976 and enjoyed showing Terry SEC football.

“I love it,” she said. “I can’t think of anything else I would rather enjoy. All of us in the Silver Dawgs love the Bulldogs. (Chuck) caught on very quickly. I love the University of Georgia and not just the football team. It’s great sharing that passion with someone who’s not originally from around here.”

Just like Georgia head coach Kirby Smart preaches, physicality and toughness are a big part of football. Even so, those are two important aspects that the Silver Dawgs have to also possess.

“As you know, Athens is built on how many hills?,” Dixon said. “So, you have to be physically able to walk and keep up. It’s also a commitment, which is the most important aspect. You have to be willling to sacrifice a lot of your time.”

Terry would agree, but he acknowledged it’s totally worth it.

“I fell in love with the university and the people in the area,” Terry said. “I graduated from a school in Texas, so I am totally adopted by the Georgia fan base. I feel like I have been accepted by the people around here and Beryl helped me achieve that. I absolutely enjoy every minute of it.”