NEO family celebrates reunion at Cleveland Browns home opener for 7th year

Posted at 8:27 PM, Sep 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-18 20:27:17-04

It has been said the Cleveland Browns have some of the most loyal fans in the entire National Football League. 

For one Northeast Ohio family, the Browns are more than just a football team. They are the reason their bond is so strong.

"We bleed the orange and brown and that's the one thing we talk about all the time," Debbie Harwood said.

Since 2009 nearly 30 members of the Billk / Harwood / Gerlich /  Felik family have attended the Browns home opener game. They said it's now considered their family reunion. 

The tradition began after several people left Northeast Ohio, making holidays difficult.

"It just depends on so many different schedules ... since not everybody is in Northeast Ohio. But this is one thing we've kind of kept intact," Jon Billak said. "This will be our thing every year moving forward, we'll just all meet up for this, have a good weekend, spend time together and see people we don't get to see."

Each year cousins, aunts, uncle, mothers and fathers travel to Cleveland from North Carolina, Illinois, Indiana, New York and Michigan for the game.

They call the game the "hopener," because they always have hope the Browns will end the day with a win.

But it's not just the Browns. The family said they are fans of all Cleveland sports.

"We vacation together in the summer and everyone's got their brown and orange or their Indians gear, and it's sort of a family affair when it comes to the teams in this city. It's pretty fun," Harwood said.