Teams face off in the 2013 Meadows Turkey Bowl in the backyard of Mike Meadows’ property in Medina Township. Snow isn’t in the forecast for this year’s bowl.
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Four children battling leukemia will be on the minds of players in a backyard football game on Thanksgiving morning.
For the 28th year, Mike Meadows will host the charity Turkey Bowl on his Hood Road property in Medina Township.
The 2016 backyard game raised an all-time high $245,000 for charities. The hope is that proceeds from Thursday’s game soar higher.
Once again, 100 percent of the money raised will go to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. In turn, St. Vincent will donate 30 percent of the proceeds to Akron Children’s Hospital to aid childhood cancer victims.
Each of the four 10-man teams will dedicate the game to a child with cancer and wear their names on the back of their jerseys. The children are:
- Katelynn Baker, Brunswick;
- Kara Hullihen, Perry Township (near Massillon);
- Kaleia Lechner, Ashland;
- Carlito Ellis, Akron.
During a recent meet and greet at Akron Children’s Hospital, organizer Meadows put medical bracelets on every table in front of the bowl players who came to the hospital to meet the cancer patients.
“It’s a reminder of who we are playing for,” he said.
“You’re an inspiration to all of us,” Meadows told the children. “You’re all in our prayers.”
Katelynn and Kaleia
Katelynn, 6, who is undergoing treatment for leukemia at Akron Children’s, attends St. Ambrose School in Brunswick.
“She was diagnosed on Dec. 31, 2015,” mom Andrea Wilson said. “She’s had a couple of hiccups along the way, but nothing serious. Our treatment has been very easy, not like some of the other families that have gone through this.”
Katelynn’s last treatment will be March 3.
Wilson said her daughter lost her hair during chemotherapy treatments and she wondered, “ ‘Should I get her a wig?’ ”
But Katelynn “totally went with it,” and the other kids at school “were good for the most part.”
Wilson said a couple boys at school had never seen a bald girl before and made some comments, but Katelynn was embraced by almost everyone at St. Ambrose.
“There were a couple women and one student (from school) who had gone through it before,” Wilson said. “They wanted to know what they could do for her.”
Wilson said they won’t miss the treatments at Akron Children’s Hospital, but they will miss the friendships they’ve made with the nurses.
She said she’s so grateful for the Meadows Turkey Bowl and what it does for charities.
“There are not a lot of people aware of what they are doing,” Wilson said. “It’s truly amazing.”
Four-year-old Kaleia Lechner has been undergoing treatment for leukemia for about two years.
“There have been a lot of bumps,” her father Paul Lechner said. “Right now, it’s not too bad. The first year and a half, it was very tough. We have six months to go before they kick her loose. Then the treatment is over. Did it work?”
Paul Lechner, who works for Charles River Laboratories in Ashland, said the hospital has been a huge help to the family by providing meal vouchers.
Dr. Jeff Hord, director of The Showers Family Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders at Akron Children’s Hospital, said the hospital is getting 90 to 100 new childhood cancer patients every year.
“The outlook is quite good,” Hord said. “There’s an 85-89 percent survival rate. Things are much brighter (than in the past).”
Hord said fighting leukemia is a three-year battle for his patients.
“It’s a long journey,” he said. “The whole family is involved. We believe in family-centered care. That is what we strive on.”
The idea to help cancer victims was a way for Meadows to honor the memory of Beth Mowrey, who died of cancer a few years ago and played a role in connecting Meadows with a family who needed help.
Her husband, Al Mowrey, who works for the Cleveland Cavaliers, remains a part of the effort, and has invited the four children battling cancer and their families to attend a Cleveland Monsters game and sit in a loge.
For the Turkey Bowl itself, each player must raise at least $2,000. Some, like Medina’s Bill Biegel, raise much more. He brought in about $45,000 last year, with half of his proceeds going to Special Olympics Medina County.
Meadows said Biegel, a plumber in Medina, sets the tone for many of the players with his fundraising efforts.
“We always want to beat last year’s number by $1,” Meadows said. “Every year, it becomes increasingly harder.
“It gives me a happy heart that we’ve invited younger people to be part of this (game). Many of the players are in their late 20s now.”
Meadows, president of 1st Day School Supplies in Medina, loves to tell the story about his son, Pete, who was stomping around the office. Meadows thought he had missed out on a business deal. Instead, his son was upset he couldn’t land more sponsorships for the Turkey Bowl.
To Meadows, that showed how much Pete cared about the cause.
“It’s a culture of giving back,” Meadows said. “We stop what we’re doing in the office and commit ourselves to this.”
Contact reporter Bob Finnan at (330) 721-4049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.