Many of the players taking part in the annual Meadows Turkey Bowl on Thanksgiving morning in Medina raised thousands of dollars to help families facing cancer.
Some of the money will assist the wife and two children of Jack Stillman who passed away at the age of 23.
Stillman, who grew up in Cleveland, was a physical specimen who loved his country and was proud to serve in the Army. He made history while stationed in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, according to his father, Kelly Stillman, who is the Rocky River police chief.
"He graduated from non-commissioned officer school and won every award possible award which is unheard of, never been done before," he said.
But in 2016, Stillman was diagnosed with lymphoma. He received multiple chemotherapy cycles and endured multiple experimental treatments. He went into remission three times but passed away last January.
His story inspired thousands on a "Team Stillman" Facebook page.
"In 23 years, he showed me really what life is all about and what it's like to be a true, genuine, dedicated man in this country," Kelly Stillman said.
Frank Warren, 28, of Strongsville, has played in the Meadows Turkey Bowl for the past three years.
Warren didn't know Jack Stillman but was touched by the young veteran's courageous and heartbreaking story and agreed to fundraise for Jack's wife, Alina, and their sons, ages seven and five.
"I'm 28. He was 23, so at any point in time, this could be me or it would have been me. It could have been my brother or my loved ones," Warren said.
Warren truly understands the heartache of cancer. His sister, Erica, died from the disease in 1998 at the age of 13.
"For this to strike out of nowhere, it's truly awful."
The turkey bowl has raised nearly $2 million over the past 14 years for the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
However, just like in years past, some of the money is earmarked to help specific families in need.
This year's effort will help four other families dealing with cancer challenges in addition to the Stillman family. Another team is raising money to bring awareness to mental health issues.
Kelly Stillman believes his son's spirit and strength are being kept alive through the kindness of the players and said their selfless acts are an example of the true meaning of Thanksgiving.
"We think, and myself included, that things should last forever and this is just a reality check that they don't," he said. "Take a deep breath and be thankful for what you have."