After successful GoFundMe effort, FSU's Gibbons wants fan’s experience to be memorable
Florida State offensive lineman Dillan Gibbons never anticipated the kind of response he got when he started a GoFundMe to help his friend, Timothy Donovan.
In just two weeks, Gibbons’ efforts have raised over $47,500 to help 18-year-old Donovan, who was born with two rare conditions which have forced him to use a wheelchair and ventilator since birth, attend the Seminoles’ season-opener against Notre Dame on Sept. 5 in Tallahassee.
Now Gibbons wants to take things up a notch and make Donovan’s trip one he’ll never forget.
“My plan for his day is a day in the sun. Make it like an official visit. Everything that we give to one of those five-star recruits rolling through the program, I’d like him to experience,” Gibbons said Wednesday. “At the end of the day, my goal is try to get as far as I can up the chain at FSU, to get him out on the field at some point during the game. Because, again, the whole point of this initiative is to get him his day in the sun. And really the sky is the limit for that.”
Donovan was born with VACTERL syndrome, a congenital defect that affects multiple organ structures, as well as Charcot Marie Tooth – an incurable disease that affects the nerves in his hands and feet.
Donovan recently underwent a life-threatening surgery to correct a severe curvature in his spine that was making his breathing very difficult.
Although the procedure was successful and helped Donovan become less dependent on the ventilator, he has since contracted pneumonia, which has complicated his recovery.
And so, Gibbons’ efforts continue to help Donovan and his family with their extensive medical bills.
“When you do have a bend in your spine like that, it’s very hard to breathe,” Gibbons said. “It’s very easy to get pneumonia. He’s struggling with that and was actually admitted into the hospital the other day. And I’ve been in conversation with his family, he’s in good spirits but he’s definitely still struggling.”
Making it memorable
Gibbons’ campaign, which he named “TakeTimothytoTally,” has drawn national attention, and the generosity of numerous people and businesses both in the local Tallahassee community and beyond.
And as such, Gibbons is confident enough steps will be taken to carry out the plan to give Donovan the star treatment when he visits FSU.
“People from the FSU community really stepped up; People in town here,” Gibbons said. “We’ve had a hotel step up. We’ve had the Garnet and Gold bookstore step up and give the family all the gear they can possibly carry out of the store. We’ve had some people in the boosters clubs and donating tickets and parking passes.”
Gibbons became close to Donovan during his time at Notre Dame when he’d meet up with him and his family to talk after games when they’d make the drive to South Bend, Ind. from Fairborn, Ohio.
Gibbons said he considers them to be in the area between friends and family because of the close relationship they’ve developed.
Making a change for family
Family has always been important to Gibbons, a St. Petersburg, Fla. native, and it’s what compelled him to make the decision to transfer to Florida State.
Gibbons, an All-State lineman at Clearwater Central Catholic, said traveling frequently to South Bend became a financial burden for his parents.
“We were lucky enough to have a house up there because my brother went to law school at Notre Dame,” Gibbons said. “At the same time, it was financially pretty tough to get up there.”
But an even bigger reason was that playing for the Seminoles would allow a very important person in his life to finally see him play in college.
“My grandpa had multiple open-heart surgeries the past four years,” Gibbons said. “He can’t fly. It’s one of the things he’s been struggling with for six years now, so he’s never been able to see me play college football. Being closer to home for my last two seasons, I’ll be able to have the whole family there with my grandpa.”
Gibbons' first chance to play before his grandfather will be against the school Gibbons played for in 29 games over the past three seasons.
Gibbons said he knew soon after Notre Dame’s spring game he wanted to transfer and that FSU was the only school he even considered even though numerous others tried to recruit him.
“The only school I even considered was FSU, because when I was a kid I was a big fan of FSU,” Gibbons said.
Gibbons, listed at 6-4, 309 pounds on FSU’s roster, projects as a possible starting guard this coming season although he is ready to take on any role he’s asked to on the Seminoles’ offensive line.
On a Notre Dame line, which included three NFL draft picks last season, Gibbons was more of the sixth man who needed to be ready to take on multiple assignments.
An example came in last year’s 42-26 Notre Dame victory over FSU. Gibbons took key snaps at left guard after Liam Eichenberg, a second-round pick of the Miami Dolphins last April, suffered an eye injury, prompting left guard Aaron Banks, a second-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers, to shift over to left tackle.
“I had to know what everyone was doing, what everyone's game plan was for that week,” Gibbons said. “So if you think about it, I was cooking for a while. Having the opportunity to step into a program and radically change the culture of the offensive line is something I was waiting for. What was guaranteed to me was coming to Florida State and making a radical impact.”
Gibbons is already trying to do that as one of the veteran additions on an FSU offensive line, which is a mix of transfers, incoming freshman and second- or third-year players with little experience at the college level.
“It’s a very interesting dynamic,” Gibbons said. “There’s a few different players last year who got forced straight out of high school, maybe one year in the program, into playing four quarters of Division I football. Every single game, every single snap. Having young guys who were forced into it and maybe not having the right amount of senior leadership on the team can cause a rift inside the offensive line.
“I think now, our offensive line so far is in a really good place. We have some veterans who are leading the room. I do think we’re doing a lot better job taking control of the room and setting an actual standard.”
Anyone interested in donating to Gibbons' GoFundMe to "TakeTimothytoTally," can click on this link: https://www.gofundme.com/f/taketimothytotally?utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet&utm_medium=copy_link_all&utm_source=customer
Reach Andre Fernandez at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @FernandezAndreC.
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