Many years ago, a group of friends and I started an annual tradition centered around college football bowl season to see who could correctly pick the winner of the most bowl games. We bought a football and affectionally named it "The Paul Sesker Trophy" in honor of a beloved teacher and coach we'd had at Tipton High. We called the contest The Bowl Bowl and each year's winner earned the distinction of having their name written on the trophy, to live in perpetuity.
While the first few years of our competition were well balanced, somehow one guy in particular- John Gravert- eventually found his way to dominance. Call him the 'Bama of Bowl Bowl perhaps, but the dude started rattling off wins year after year and has in fact won eight of the last nine. If you know John, you can probably imagine the endless stream of good natured smack talk the rest of us have endured as a result- but it's all in fun and something we all look forward to.
This year, things are a little different though. Our friend John suffered a serious stroke on October 28. He was diagnosed in his twenties with a condition called hydrocephalus, which is an accumulation of cerebral spinal fluid that causes a build up of pressure on his brain. He had several episodes and surgeries to insert shunts for drainage in the years following that initial diagnosis, and in 2008 underwent a new procedure that finally seemed to produce lasting relief. He'd been able to live unimpaired since, but on October 28 had a recurrence which resulted in the stroke, and he slipped into a coma.
John is currently in a rehabilitation facility in Omaha. He was largely unresponsive for several weeks, but is starting to show encouraging signs of progress. His condition is now being labeled a consciousness disorder. He's beginning to show more and more signs of alertness and demonstrating attempts to communicate with family. I personally had the opportunity to stop and see him while passing through Omaha last week- and after greeting him and telling him I'm proud of him, I saw a light of recognition flash in his eye and he made a low moan as if trying to respond.
There's no doubt that he's still in there, fighting to get better. And I have no doubt that he will. You can read more about John's journey HERE, where his sister Joyce and wife Erika provide regular updates on his progress.
As you might imagine, while John's family's only focus is on his wellbeing and recovery, the situation undoubtedly presents financial challenges. With that in mind, I've decided to organize this simple fundraiser to try and help in what little way we can. We're going to open Bowl Bowl up for anyone to participate this year, for just a $10 donation, with all proceeds being passed directly on to John's family to help with meals and other expenses.
Here's how it works...
1- We'll be using the ESPN platform to make bowl game picks, so you'll need to sign in or create an account there. You'll find our group on the Capitol One Bowl Mania Challenge page, under the name "The Bowl Bowl- John Gravert Fundraiser" (or click HERE.) Once you're logged into your account, you can make your game picks before or after joining our group- just try to get them in before the games start on Friday, December 16. We will keep the group open for late entries until December 24, you just might miss out on points from the early games if signing up late.
2- I'll be handling the donations, and again, we're asking for a minimum of $10 to enter (but you can certainly donate more if you'd like.) You can send that to me by Venmo @Josh-Meier-15, PayPal @joshmeierphotography or message me to make other arrangements.
Again, every penny of this will be passed on to John's family. This isn't a prize pool where the winner will receive monetary compensation. Instead, the name of this year's winner will be added to the Paul Sesker Trophy, along with John's name. ("2023- Your Name for John Gravert")
I mean... chances are he would have won anyway, we're just letting someone else help with his picks.
3- When you send the entry fee, please note your name and an email address or phone number- whichever is the best way to reach you. I'll respond with the group password. (If paying by Venmo I'll be able to reply directly through the app... PayPal I'm not sure. Regardless, let me know how to reach you, just in case.)
4- From there go back to that ESPN page, join the group, make your picks if you haven't already, wait for the games to start and enjoy!
I do want to stress that any and everybody is welcome to participate- whether you know John or any of the rest of us or just stumbled along by chance. The more the merrier, and we'd love to have you join in! And if anyone would prefer to just donate to John's family without making bowl picks, of course that would be wonderful too. Some local friends in Omaha have set up a meal train site (HERE) that I believe accepts straight donations. Otherwise, you can send it to me through any of the options listed above and I'll be happy to pass it along to Erika and the kids.
Thanks so much. Just send me a message if you have any questions, and good luck with those picks!