RUTLEDGE, Ga. (FOX 5 Atlanta) - On a rainy day in Rutledge, Georgia, the Bulldogs football team was able to brighten kid's day at Camp Sunshine, a camp for kids battling cancer. The team took time away from their offseason workouts to make the 30-mile trek from Athens to show their support of the kids that support them.
"It's wild to walk around this place because these kids look just like you," reserve quarterback Stetson Bennett said. "And they're here, they're struggling with cancer. It really puts in perspective how lucky you have it being able to come here."
The Bulldogs have made this an annual summer trip dating back several years, but for Kirby Smart and his family, the visit is more than just an act of community service. Smart's older brother Karl was diagnosed with Leukemia as a teenager and spent time as a camper at Camp Sunshine before beating cancer, and eventually becoming a counselor.
"It's a place where I could feel normal when I had cancer," Karl said. "I met a lot of great people. Just a lot of great memories."
For many campers, the opportunity to escape isn't as much about spending the summer playing basketball all day and swimming until their fingers look like prunes, but rather it's a chance for them to connect with people who understand their battle.
"Camp is kind of a special deal because it's a place where you come, and yeah you can get a treatment if you need to, but for the most part you just get to be a regular kid," Karl said. "I can't say enough about what that meant to me."
Kirby recognizes the importance of the camp to Karl, and it holds a special place in the entire Smart family's hearts. The two brothers remember the struggles their family went through as Karl battled cancer, which serves as a reminder of why they give back to Camp Sunshine.
"You can't anything for granted," Coach Smart said. "Our family time, we appreciated the time we had."
Camp Sunshine was one of 25 charities that The Kirby Smart Family Foundation made a total of over $200,000 in donations to in 2018.