After Peter Radke, of Medina Township, died this summer while trying to save a 16-year-old girl from drowning in Lake Erie, the community rallied around his family.
Now the sponsors of the Meadows Turkey Bowl will be pitching in to help the family this Thanksgiving.
“We want to raise as much as we can to honor him as a hero,” said Mike Meadows, the founder of the annual charity event.
Now in its 25th year, the Turkey Bowl started as a family game among Meadows, his brother, Bill, and their friend, Tom Judson, and has morphed into a major fundraiser. Last year, the Turkey Bowl raised $158,000.
In past years, all the proceeds from the Turkey Bowl were donated to the St. Vincent DePaul Society to help families in need. But this year 30 percent of those donations will go to the Radke family — Pete’s wife, Michelle, and four children, Hannah, Brynn, Owen and Isaac.
“We don’t usually seek out a face, or one family to donate to, but this year it just seemed appropriate,” Meadows said. “We just want to give back to that family.”
Michelle Radke said she was touched by the gesture, as she and her family continue to adjust to their lives without Peter.
“I feel like I’ve gained a new family. I’m surprised and very grateful,” she said.
She said the Radke family is doing well, and “stumbling along” as they receive counseling and lean on the support of family, friends and fellow parishoners at Grace Church.
Recently, Michelle Radke spoke with the 16-year-old girl her husband rushed into the water to save on May 31 at Huntington Beach in Bay Village.
“She’s a dear girl and she wants to make a difference in the world around her,” she said.
Radke said she learned that Peter spoke briefly with the girl when he reached her in the water that day.
“She said he told her his name was Peter and that he was going to get her out of there,” Radke said. “Then he pushed her towards the raft.”
Radke said the conversation was hard for both of them, but said she wanted to reach out to the girl.
“I don’t want her to carry any guilt,” she said.
Meadows said he’s impressed by Radke’s strength, but said he can’t imagine the financial and emotional difficulty of suddenly raising four children on her own.
“The entire family is just so strong,” Meadows said.
For the last 10 years, the Meadows Turkey Bowl has worked this way: Participants come together and raise money from friends, family and co-workers. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the participants are divided into three teams, and Monopoly money represents what they fundraised for St. Vincent DePaul and is used to bargain for player trades among teams.
This “draft night” encourages players to raise more money so they can help their team draft the best players, Meadows said. Fundraising goals are set for each of the players.
“The minimum is $1,000, but we have a goal of $1,500,” Meadows said.
Meadows said a number of partners, including the Turkey Bowl’s newest partner, the Arena Football League’s Cleveland Gladiators, are helping to provide incentive packages to donors.
“We don’t want to make it a burden on players to raise the money, and we want to give people something for their donations,” Meadows said.
Donation packages range from $50 to $3,000 and include everything from golfing and Indians tickets to autographed sports memorabilia from the Cleveland Cavaliers.
For example, those who donate $100 will get four box seats to a Cleveland Indians game and two lower-level tickets to a Gladiators game. Higher packages include ticket offers, along with golfing foursomes and gift certificates.
Meadows said he’s grateful for the support from the Medina Country Club and the Gladiators.
Alan Mowery, vice president of franchise development for the Gladiators, will be playing in the Turkey Bowl. Mowery, Tim and Terry Blascak and Joe Caruso, a pastor at the Radkes’ church, all will be raising money specifically for the Radke family.
But the Turkey Bowl isn’t quite finished rounding out this year’s roster. The Meadows Turkey Bowl still is looking for about 10 more young Turkey Bowlers like Mowery who are willing to play “the game within the game.”
Meadows said they’re looking for people who like to play football, but more importantly are willing to go out and raise money.
“Some of us are getting old,” he said. “We want to bring in some young people who want to carry this on, but they need to be dedicated to raising money.”
To learn more about the Turkey Bowl, visit www.meadowsturkeybowl.com or call Meadows at (330) 721-6865.