HINKLEY, Ohio (WJW) — More than 30 years ago Mike Meadows spent a part of his Thanksgiving day, as many others do when the weather permits, throwing a football around his backyard.

“My dad and my uncle started playing backyard football and a group of guys would just come to my parents’ house and it would grow and grow and grow,” Mike’s son Pete Meadows said.

Mike’s wife would make a nice meal for those who were there.

“One year, someone wanted to pay my parents and it was a couple of hundred dollars for all the food and the breakfast my mom would make. From there, that’s where my dad decided, ‘Hey let’s give the money back, don’t pay us let’s give it back to those in need,” and that’s when we first started raising money for the St. Vincent De Paul Society,” Pete said.

“We originally gave the proceeds to help the needy through the St. Vincent de Paul Society and then one of our turkey bowlers’ wives got cancer and she lost her battle, and we made that commitment about seven years ago that at least 25 percent of our proceeds would help the needy battle cancer. So my family and I would hold hands with families that were battling cancer, and we would contribute a lot of our funds to those families. Never in a million years did we think that cancer would hit us,” Mike said.

About four-and-a-half years ago it did.

Pete was four months into his marriage when he was diagnosed with Oligodendroglioma, a rare form of brain cancer.

“And so all of a sudden it became really really really personal,” Mike said.

“To be diagnosed with that and understanding it first-hand, we are able to see what they go through but also have more of a mission and a passion as a family to go help families battling cancer in need but also to help find a cure,” Pete said.

Over the years the Meadows Turkey Bowl, a Thanksgiving day football game and fundraiser, has raised a combined $3 million to help those in need and to battle cancer.

In doing so it has become. what Mike likes to call, “The nation’s biggest backyard football game”

This year they hope to take the grand total to over $4 million with the help of many small and some larger donors.

“The neat thing about our donors though they don’t come in 100-thousand dollars swaths, though we would not turn that away they come in 50s and 100s, and 250s, and 500s. That’s the cool thing about our event, it’s not just one big donor, it’s the community of Cleveland coming together,” Mike said.

The event will still have food and football, in which the players run out of a tunnel. It has grown to also have the marching band from Highland High School.

Those who are interested in donating can choose packages that come with swag, golf outings, dinner discounts and even a luxury suite for a Cleveland Guardians baseball game.

Mike Meadows says 100% of the proceeds go to charity. He and his wife contribute everything needed to put on the annual event.

Contributions this year will go into a fund named after Gianna Rae, Pete Meadow’s daughter, who they lost while his wife was still 9 months pregnant on Mother’s Day weekend 2022.

“So our mission is to help the needy, especially the needy battling cancer. And a large part of our proceeds go to the Gianna Rae fund to find a cure for brain cancer for my son Pete,” Mike said. “We have the top researchers in the world at the University of California, San Francisco who are desperately looking for a cure for Oligodendroglioma and hopefully here over the next six months, we are going to collaborate with the Cleveland Clinic.UCSF and the Cleveland Clinic coming together to try to find a cure.”

To learn more about the Meadow’s Turkey Bowl you can go to their website.