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27th Meadows Turkey Bowl to honor memories

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    Dan Icenhour, left, jukes past Dan Bowman in the 2015 Meadows Turkey Bowl, billed as the nation's premier backyard football game. This year's game will be Thanksgiving Day.

    COURTESY OF ALAN SCHAFER

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    Mike Meadows, center in black jersey, has helped organize the Meadows Turkey Bowl for 27 years. This year's game will be on Thanksgiving Day.

    PHOTO PROVIDED

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The Meadows Turkey Bowl, in its 27th year, will focus on honoring memories as well as raising funds for charity on Thanksgiving Day.

Customarily, proceeds from the touch football game are earmarked for one individual or family in need because organizers wanted to attach a “face” to the game.

Mike Meadows, of Medina Township, said that won’t be the case in 2016.

“We don’t need a face,” he said. “We’re all a couple paychecks away from potentially needing help. St. Vincent DePaul helps build bridges to people who have fallen a little bit behind. The face is your face in the mirror.

“This year, there are no faces. We’re honoring memories. When there isn’t a specific face, we can help multiple people.”

Meadows said the Turkey Bowl has raised more than $1 million the last 11 years. Last year, it raised $230,000. Meadows said it might be difficult to reach that number in this year’s game, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try.

The bulk of the money raised is once again headed to the Society of St. Vincent DePaul of Medina County. It has been the nonprofit group’s single largest fundraiser in the county for several years.

Funds also will be allocated to the Grace Foundation and to the family of the late John Bigelow. Bigelow was last year’s recipient. All proceeds raised by Bill Biegel, of Medina, will go directly to the Bigelow family.

The Bigelows, of Conneaut in Ashtabula County, adopted five foster children before they found out John was dying of cancer. The family had no insurance.

“I’ve never seen a more loving and faithful family,” Meadows said.

The late Beth Mowrey, wife of Cleveland Gladiators executive Alan Mowrey, helped link Meadows to the Bigelow family last year. She left such a profound impression on Meadows that he said this year’s game is being dedicated to her. Players wore “Bigelow” on the backs of their jerseys last year. They will wear Mowrey’s name on their backs this year.

She died this year after a battle with cancer — about a month after Bigelow.

Alan Mowrey is vice president of franchise development for the Arena Football League team. He’s been involved with the Turkey Bowl for a few years. He not only has played in the game, but the Gladiators also give away tickets as prize packages.

“She was the most loving, caring person,” Meadows said. “It was never about her.

“My heart breaks for Alan Mowrey. I just want to honor Beth every year moving forward.”

Meadows said he’ll never forget one interaction with Beth Mowrey. She pulled him aside and said, “Isn’t this amazing how our lives have collided?”

In 2014, the Turkey Bowl’s beneficiary was the Radke family of Medina Township. Pete Radke died saving a 16-year-old girl from drowning in Lake Erie.

One other “face” has been former Highland High School football player Kory Wiita, who was paralyzed playing in a 2010 game.

Game’s history

The first game was played in 1991 at Meadows’ farm house at Smith and River Styx roads in Montville Township. Meadows and his brother, Bill, were the founders.

“We played an innocent game of backyard football,” Mike Meadows said. “That started the tradition of the Turkey Bowl. Every year it became bigger.”

Meadows moved to Hood Road in Medina Township and he has a football field in his backyard. Spectators are welcome.

Players have to be at least 21 years old and raise $2,000 to participate.

“It’s kind of evolved,” Meadows said. “It’s gone from coming out of our own wallets to corporate account money. In my mind, I don’t want to have our players raise money for this event and alienate themselves to family and friends. I want to create what’s called a ‘Give-Get Strategy.’

“It’s a select group. It’s not an open invitation to play in the game.”

He said he’s trying to usher in the new generation of players.

Meadows has created packages for people to donate and get something in return:

  • Donate $50 and get 25 percent off a meal at Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse
  • Donate $100 and get four tickets to an Indians game and two tickets to the Gladiators
  • $250 donors get a foursome of golf at Medina Country Club and four tickets to a Gladiators game
  • $500 donors get a foursome of golf, four tickets to an Indians game, a Hyde park coupon and four front-row seats to a Gladiators game.

Grace Foundation

Thirty percent of this year’s proceeds will go to the Grace Foundation, which was founded in 2005.

“Mike and Mary Grace are friends of mine from St. Francis (Xavier Church),” Meadows said. “Mary passed away from breast cancer.”

Every fall, they host The Race 4 Grace. The charity offers financial assistance for those fighting cancer.

The St. Vincent DePaul society provides person-to-person service to an estimated 260,000 low-income people in Ashland, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Summit, Wayne and Medina counties. It provides food and clothing, among other needs.

This year’s game

Four teams will be picked on draft night at 8 p.m. Nov. 23 at Medina Country Club, 5588 Wedgewood Road, Lafayette Township.

The Turkey Bowl starts at 8 a.m. Nov. 24 at 3075 Hood Road, Medina Township.

The Special Olympics Turkey Bowl will be 9 a.m. Nov. 25, also at Meadows’ property.

Meadows said the Highland High School marching band will play at the game. Medina’s Mike Eleo will head a group of referees. Radio personality Kenny Roda, of Medina, will announce the game through a megaphone.

Meadows said information on donations can be found at meadowsturkeybowl.com.

Contact reporter Bob Finnan at (330) 721-4049 or rfinnan@medina-gazette.com.



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