An annual football game in Medina Township broke its own record Thursday by raising $230,000 for charity, up from last year’s amount of $190,000. For 26 years, Mike Meadows has been hosting a Thanksgiving football game that organizers call “rough touch” in his Medina Township backyard.
Then, 11 years ago, the idea came up to make the event a fundraiser for charity — and it was called the Meadows Turkey Bowl. With this year’s donations, the football players broke the $1 million mark in money raised the past 11 years.
“It feels kind of like a dream still,” Meadows said.
About 30 percent of the money raised went directly to a chosen family and the rest will go to the Catholic-based Society of St. Vincent de Paul charity.
“It’s a God thing,” Meadows said. “Our motivation was the Bigelow family and knowing what they’re going through.”
Meadows said he wasn’t planning on any donation to a specific family this year, but changed his mind after hearing about the situation involving the Bigelows, of Conneaut.
For the past seven years, John and Wendy Bigelow have adopted five foster children. In August, doctors told John Bigelow, 55, that he had terminal cancer and months to live.
He had been diagnosed in February of 2014 and started chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
By November last year, he was told the disease was gone. Then, during a doctor appointment in August, he learned that cancer had returned.
“We thought we were just going up there for a regular checkup,” Bigelow told The Gazette earlier this month.
“I told the doctors that we needed a minute alone, and Wendy and I just embraced and cried. I’ve never cried so much.”
The Bigelows have health insurance, but it expires next year, Wendy Bigelow said. She said her husband does not have life insurance and they have no income other than Bigelow being put on disability with the state.
Wendy Bigelow, 53, doesn’t work because she home-schools the five children.
“We’ve been praying for a miracle for John,” Wendy Bigelow told The Gazette. “I don’t even have money to bury John, and he’s the love of my life.”
The family drove 1 1/2 hours to Medina on Thursday to attend the Turkey Bowl.
“It’s just overwhelming to see all the people here,” Wendy Bigelow said.
The family will receive 30 percent of the proceeds of the Turkey Bowl.
Rick Niese, president of St. Vincent de Paul in Medina, which receives the rest of the proceeds, attended the game and said money is used for food, financial assistance and furniture for families in need. Last year, the organization helped about 1,300 families.
Alan Mowrey, vice president of development for the Arena Football League’s Cleveland Gladiators, raised with a match from the Gladiators about $20,000, all of which will go to the Bigelows.
Another big contributor for the cause was Bill Biegel, of Medina, who raised about $41,000 on his own.
“I just called a bunch of people, like 350 people,” Biegel said.
The 43 players in the Turkey Bowl held a three-hour player draft night Wednesday. Each player has to raise $2,000 to be in it.
The money they raised is converted into “Meadows Money” and used to help bid on top players.
The four teams play on two fields on Meadows’ property, and the winners played a second game for a championship.
Highland High School band members and alumni played the national anthem and other music throughout the games. Meadows’ wife, Connie, prepares a large breakfast for everyone each year.
“It’s just great that so many of the guys really played the game within the game, and went above and beyond to raise money this year,” Meadows said.