HINCKLEY, Ohio – Thanks to a late surge of donations, a competitive push among players to raise money, and organizers who remain driven in their need to help others, the annual Meadows Turkey Bowl has now topped $3 million in donations.
The turkey bowl began in 1990 as a backyard, pickup football game, was converted into a fundraiser in 2005, and now brings in thousands annually for the St. Vincent de Paul Society and cancer charities. This year, the game raised $511,000, pushing the cumulative total to $3,182,800.
“Isn’t it amazing?” asked organizer Mike Meadows, who said fundraising was down $50,000 just two weeks ago. “We really were down. … Then it just went bananas.”
The backs of players’ jerseys represented people they were playing for, folks with cancer who can punch back at the disease thanks to the efforts of a bunch of guys trudging across a wet field on Thanksgiving. Some of the players had the words “Do something,” which has become a mantra for Meadows. Those two words are a reminder to fight back at cancer in any way possible.
Last year, players brought in $416,000. The game has always pulled in more money than the previous year.
Nothing stops the effort – not Covid concerns last year, and not the weather. Players have competed in moderate conditions, snow, wind and rain. Thursday, temperatures stayed in the 40s as a drizzle grew to a steady pour, resulting in a soggy field and drenched players and fans.
About 40 players on six teams slogged their way across the grassy, chalk-lined field of Meadows’ company, 1st Day School Supplies in Hinckley.
It has all the trappings of a featured game, with Highland High School marching-band members performing. More than half a dozen bonfires warmed folks who huddled along the edge of the fields. Officials patrolled the sidelines and fielded occasional challenges to their calls. And it wouldn’t be a tradition without the giant turkey inflatables watching over everything. Cocky’s Bagels food truck rolled up in the parking lot, and Meadows’ wife Connie provided doughnuts and coffee for the masses under a large tent.
Players must commit to raising a minimum $2,000 to play, but the average amount was $10,000, Mike Meadows said. Some are aging out of the game, but others – like plumber Bill Biegel - still maintain an unwavering commitment to raise money. Biegel and Meadows’ son, Michael, teamed up this year to start a foundation to bring in more dollars.
Michael, Mike Meadows said of his son, “really kept the train on the tracks.”
“It’s really cool seeing this all come to life,” said Michael, who said next week they will start planning for the 2022 game.
Adding younger players is just one of the ways the game has evolved. When it returns for its 33rd installment in 2022, the Meadows Turkey Bowl will be an established 501c3 nonprofit. But it is entirely a volunteer-run effort. All donations raised stay local, with St. Vincent de Paul Society and Mary Grace Memorial Foundation serving as beneficiaries. And now money is being targeted to combat cancer – specifically, oligodendroglioma, brain cancer, which Meadows’ son Pete was diagnosed with before last year’s game.
Pete played in Thursday’s game, which obviously holds special meaning. He and his family have fought through his diagnosis, and Pete also underwent surgery for a torn pectoral muscle. But he was back with his brothers, Michael and Matt, their cousins, and dozens of other fellows on a wet day in Medina County.
“I got here really early this morning and sat by the fire and I just looked out,” said Pete, who said 1,200 Americans a year are diagnosed with oligodendroglioma. “It’s crazy to think when I was a little kid and watching my dad play, no money raised, and where we’re at now.”
The Meadows Turkey Bowl has attracted its share of celebrities over the years in one way or another – former college coach and ESPN’s College GameDay analyst Lee Corso has endorsed the game, and former Browns fullback Tom Vardell is a big donor. This year, Connor Cook played in his first Turkey Bowl. Cook attended Walsh Jesuit in Cuyahoga Falls, starred at quarterback at Michigan State, and had a stint in the NFL.
“I love it; it’s competitive,” said Cook, who is friends with Pete and played football with Jack and Sam Meadows, Pete’s cousins. Cook said he knew about the game for years, but his football schedule didn’t allow him to play.
“As soon as I was done, I was ‘I’ve got to be here,’ " said Cook, who called the turkey bowl an “amazing event” that lived up to its hype.
Its philanthropic spirit – helping the needy and those affected by cancer - remains the underlying reason the Meadows family and supporters continue to grow the game.
“This is our Christmas, this is the celebration,” Mike Meadows said. “It’s the people coming, the vibe, it’s a lot of energy. It’s so special this year because of where the money’s going.”
His son, Michael Meadows, added: “Our priest always said how God weaves and brings people together. I think the Turkey Bowl is a giant weave of all these different people coming together for one common cause.”
Donating: The game’s website has details on donating via paypal or check. Various incentive packages are offered, so people who give a certain amount can receive dinners, golf and other valued prizes. Organizers do not take any fees.
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Source : https://www.cleveland.com/entertainment/2021/11/meadows-turkey-bowl-raises-record-511000-for-charity-with-thanksgiving-football-game-photos.html2179