HINCKLEY, Ohio — The Meadows Turkey Bowl in Medina County started out as a small backyard family football game about 30 years ago and has blossomed into a huge fundraising event.
Since the players began collecting money for charity, more than $2.2 million has been raised. The money is split between St. Vincent de Paul Society and The Mary Grace Memorial Foundation, a non-profit that helps families affected by cancer.
Pete Meadows, 27, has been playing in the game for seven years. His father, Mike Meadows, is one of the founders of the Turkey Bowl.
"That has been our mission for really the past seven years is helping those needy families battling cancer," Pete Meadows said.
As a young and healthy newlywed, he never imagined the game would be played in his honor, but that's exactly what will happen when the players take the field on Thanksgiving morning behind the family's business in Hinckley.
"You think you're immune to it. There's no way I can get diagnosed with cancer. I'm helping all these families," he said.
Pete's ironic and frightening journey started in January. He was feeling fine when he drove to Orangetheory in Strongsville with his wife of four months, Anita.
However, he has very little memory of his workout there. On the drive home, Pete began acting strangely and called Anita by her grandmother's name.
"He called me Anna in the car and I was like, 'What do you mean? Why are you calling me that?" Anita recalled.
After they arrived at their Hinckley home, things turned terrifying. As Anita handed Pete a protein shake, he started making grunting noises, suffered the first of three grand mal seizures and lowered himself to the floor.
"I just saw him foaming at the mouth and I was like this is bad. This is serious," Anita told News 5.
Anita dialed 911. Pete was taken first to the Cleveland Clinic Family Health Center in Brunswick and later transferred to the main campus in Cleveland.
The next morning he woke up feeling fuzzy in an MRI machine and his eyes were drawn to a monitor displaying a shaded image of his brain.
"We've helped families with brain cancer so I know what it looks like. I said to the doctor, 'Do I have a brain tumor?' He said, 'Yeah, you have a brain tumor.' I'm just laying there like you've got to be kidding me. I have brain cancer?"
The tumor was the size of a baseball. The official diagnosis was Oligodendroglioma, low grade 2. Doctors believed it had been growing for five years.
Pete did a lot of research and eventually settled on having brain surgery at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
Dr. Raymond Sawaya assured Pete that he was going to be okay and the four-hour surgery last February went extremely well.
"It was like scooping out ice cream. The tumor just came completely out," Pete said.
Pete expected he would need radiation and chemotherapy, but remarkably, doctors told him neither was necessary.
"Which means I won the tumor lottery," Pete said.
Pete and Anita believe it's a miracle that everything turned out as it did and feel the power of prayer played a big role.
"It's all a miracle. There are so many miracles. It was difficult, but we were being watched for sure," Anita said.
Recent scans of Pete's brain have come back clean. There are no signs of brain cancer. He will return to Houston every three months for follow-up scans.
Pete is excited to get back on the field for the Turkey Bowl, knowing that he will once again be raising money for families dealing with cancer while also counting his blessings that he beat it.
"I'm emotional, and so for me every day when we go to bed, I pray," he said. "I just thank God for another day."
The Meadows Turkey Bowl takes place between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Thanksgiving.