Barbara Dooley stole the show Wednesday evening as she and her husband, legendary University of Georgia football coach Vince Dooley, spoke at the Ninth Annual Steak and Burger Dinner, a fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Club of Bulloch County.
Barbara Dooley had the crowd singing along as she moved about the room, hugging Boys & Girls Club members, belting out the words to Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called to Say I Love You." Her message to the children — and to everyone else — was to enjoy life, love one another and realize that "Jesus loves us all."
Held in Georgia Southern University's Nessmith-Lane Conference Center ballroom, the dinner is one of the Boys & Girls Club's main fundraisers, said club Executive Director Mike Jones. The club has been in Bulloch County for 13 years and helps children succeed academically and otherwise, he said.
Taking the stage first, Vince Dooley spoke of the strong moral character of the late Coach Erskine "Erk" Russell, who led the Georgia Southern Eagles to success after his tenure at UGA as part of Dooley's staff. He praised the Boys & Girls Club, stating, "No other program in the country has had this success."
He spoke of the importance of "character building" and values, and said the club was about "having a sound body, a sound mind and a brave heart."
Barbara Dooley spoke about "setting goals and going after them." Sprinkling her speech with humorous anecdotes about herself, her husband and family, she told the crowd she feels prayer is important.
"Pray," she told the children. "Always remember ... no matter what ... Jesus is always with you. Even when your parents are mad at you, He is not."
Living life to its fullest is important as well, she said.
"Always remember to have fun," Dooley said. "Take every day as a gift and make it fun."
After coaxing the crowd to stand and sing along with her, then asking all audience members to tell someone beside them they loved them, she reminded the crowd to make the best of every moment.
"Every day is ordinary unless we make it special," she said.
Vince Dooley coached the UGA Bulldogs for more than 25 years, leading them to the 1980 national championship and six Southeastern Conference championships. He and Barbara have been married 54 years and are popular speakers for events such as the Steak and Burger Dinner. Barbara Dooley is active in charities, having been involved in more than 80 charity groups. Both she and her husband are published authors as well.
Before the Dooleys left the event, a member of the Boys & Girls Club presented them with an original drawing of the Georgia Bulldogs logo. Barbara Dooley said she would hang it "in the Bulldog room" in their home.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.