An annual football exhibition established to raise funds to find a cure for a devastating disease has taken on greater poignancy this year.
Former semipro football player and coach Dave Calabrese, who was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease in the fall of 2008, died Saturday at the age of 40.
Just one week later, the fifth annual Dave Calabrese Football Blitz will feature semipro football games at noon and 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at Springfield High School to raise funds to find a cure for the disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.
“We will celebrate his life and how he touched so many people,” said Dave’s mother, Dawn Szymkowiak. “We’re following through with this because he never would have wanted to cancel it. We do this benefit because Dave was all about football and family.”
Calabrese excelled in football at Maumee High School and went on play minor league football for 14 years before he was diagnosed with the debilitating disease. He owned and coached a local team called the Northwest Ohio Knights.
The Knights will take on the Indiana Spartans at 3:30 p.m. The Southern Michigan Timberwolves will play the Grand Rapids Thunder at noon.
Tickets are $10 and $5 for children 12 and under for both games.
A 50/50 raffle and silent auction also will be held to raise additional funds.
Proceeds benefit the Northern Ohio Chapter of the ALS Association. There is no cure for the motor neuron disease, which makes it increasingly difficult to talk, walk, eat, and breathe.
“You don’t hear much about ALS,” Szymkowiak said. “We want to get the word out. We want them to do more research. They haven’t found a cure. They have medicines that will keep a patient alive a few months longer.”
For more information, call 419-297-0128. Donations can be sent to Sun Federal Credit Union of Maumee. Other donations can be sent to Szymkowiak at 527 Cambridge Park S., Maumee, OH 43537.
“Dave always remained vibrant and was joking all the time,” Szymkowiak said. “This is a continuation of honoring him.”