My name is Dillan Gibbons and I am a graduate of the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame, a former Notre Dame offensive lineman, a current football player on the offensive line for Florida State University and candidate for an MBA degree from FSU. I am trying to raise money for Timothy Donovan- the most courageous guy I’ve ever known. Although our lives took very different trajectories, we have more in common than most would imagine. Our connection began before we were even aware that it existed. We both made the trip to South Bend, Indiana on a cold November day in 2008 to watch our very first college football game: Syracuse vs. Notre Dame. That game, referred to as the “snowball game,” where the Notre Dame student section pummeled it’s players with snowballs during the first quarter, got Tim and I both hooked on college football. 9 years later, Timothy and I met for the first time as I exited Notre Dame Stadium after my first game for the Irish. He was one of many fans hoping to get an autograph from a player and I was one of the first guys out of the locker room. I saw him in the crowd and was drawn to him. I met Timothy and his family and signed my gloves for him. Since that time, I have looked forward to seeing Timothy after the games and he was there quite often at first. Unfortunately, his physical struggles intensified as his medical conditions worsened and he was not able to make it to many games in the past two years.
Timothy was born with a condition called VACTERL and was not expected to survive. He was later diagnosed with Charcot Marie Tooth - an incurable disease that effects the nerves in his hands and feet. His father, Tim, a decorated military veteran, and his mother Paula, fought against all odds to help him live an adventurous, exciting life filled with experiences that most kids would dream of having. Timothy persevered through over 50 surgeries in his lifetime and has always come through it with a smile on his face.
Last year was my last season as a Notre Dame football player. I got my first start, ironically, against Syracuse on December 5th, 2020. It was an amazing day for me, but would have been so much more special if Timothy could have been there. Due to the pandemic and his physical condition, he could not come to the game. It was only after that game that our mothers figured out our unique connection – the Syracuse “snowball,” game in 2008. After season ended, I learned that Timothy had made the decision to have a life-altering spine surgery to correct a severe curvature that was making his breathing very difficult. Although his parents and even his doctors were concerned that he would not survive the surgery, Timothy insisted on moving forward with it in the hopes that he would have a better quality of life. In April of 2021, Timothy had his spine surgery and not only survived, but he THRIVED. He gained 4 inches in height and, most importantly, the restriction his curved spine was causing on his ability to breathe was alleviated. Timothy just graduated from high school and is looking forward to a very bright future.
When he learned that I was transferring to Florida State University to earn my MBA an play my 5th and 6th years of college football, Timothy reached out to me to let me know that he was proud of me and that he would always be a Dillan Gibbons fan and that he is now a proud fan of Notre Dame AND Florida State. It would mean so much to both of us if he could be there to watch me play my first game as a Nole when I suit up against the Irish. Due to the recent NCAA rule changes and the State of Florida’s statutory support for college athletes, I’ve decided to use my name, image and likeness to try to raise money to help bring Timothy and his parents to Doak Campbell for the first game of the season. I’ve started this gofundme page in hopes that others who share a love for college football will help me take Timothy to Tally to be there for the FSU v. Notre Dame on Sunday, September 5th, 2021 at 7:30 p.m. Only one thing is for certain in this game – there will be NO snowballs flying! Your donations will be used for game tickets, transportation costs, lodging, and meals for Timothy and his parents. Any excess funds raised with go directly to Timothy's family to help them recover from the financial burden of his recent spinal surgery and continued care. Please help if you can.
Update as of 9/17: Thank you all for helping us get Timothy to Tally! Please join me and other athletes by supporting my newly formed nonprofit, Big Man Big Heart, Inc. https://gofund.me/38c3bf9c to help change the way college athletes use their NIL for good and ultimately make a lasting impact on communities everywhere.