The first week of college athletes finally being able to legally activate their names, images and likenesses for personal gains and aims has seen a wide range of ideas come to fruition.
Dillan Gibbons has outdone them all.
Rather than line up a deal with a local barbecue chain, as his former Notre Dame offensive line mates did, the graduate transfer now at Florida State started a GoFundMe for the most inspirational of reasons.
Gibbons wanted to make it possible for Timothy Donovan, a young Notre Dame fan with a rare medical condition, to be at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla., for Gibbons’ Seminoles debut on Sept. 5. The Fighting Irish will be across the way, and Donovan and his parents will now be on hand as well.
Super Coffee met the initial fundraising goal of $15,000, so Gibbons reset the bar for $75,000. As of Thursday night, the campaign had raised more than $45,000 with the additional funds going to help offset the Donovans’ massive medical expenses over the years.
“This thing that’s happening is just natural,” Shannon Gibbons, the player’s father, said in a phone interview from St. Petersburg, Fla. “It’s not anything else other than Dillan just being Dillan. He’s a very generous person by nature. That’s just who he is.”
Starting in kindergarten, according to his father, Dillan Gibbons would bring a medical kit to his new teacher on the first day of school. He did this so the teacher would be prepared in case any of his classmates were injured.
Once he got to South Bend, Ind.,the scholarship athlete from Florida’s Gulf Coast would purchase winter coats at area thrift shops and keep them in the backseat of his four-door pickup truck. As he drove around town during the winter months, Gibbons, 6-foot-4 and 309 pounds, would hop out of his truck and clothe the area’s homeless population with those same jackets whenever he saw someone shivering.
“He’s that kid,” his father said. “He was the kid that always wanted to take care of everybody. He’s always been that way. It’s nothing new.”
Tom Mendoza, namesake of the Notre Dame College of Business from which Gibbons graduated this spring, praised the Irish alumnus on Twitter.
“Dillan seeking to help someone else is just who he is,” the former NetApp executive posted. “Very proud to have him as my friend.”
Gibbons, 21, feels the same way about Timothy Donovan, a wheelchair-bound resident of Dayton, Ohio, who caught the player’s eye as Gibbons left Notre Dame Stadium after his first home game in uniform for the Irish. The two exchanged contact information as did their mothers, Paula Donovan and Lynn Gibbons, the latter a personal injury lawyer.
Thanks to the generosity of those moved by the “Take Timothy To Tally” campaign — including directors at GoFundMe itself — the two families are already making plans for Timothy’s trip on Labor Day weekend.
“The whole process has been really amazing,” said Shannon Gibbons, 54. “We’ve already started talking about the logistics of that, how it’s going to work. It’s going to be like (Donovan’s) official visit, you might say. He’s going to get to see it all.”
Most notably, Donovan will get a chance to see his friend Dillan once again in person. Early on they both realized their first trip to Notre Dame Stadium was for the same snowy game against Syracuse back in 2008.
Thirteen years later, a national television audience will get to share in that heartwarming bond. Perhaps Gibbons’ selfless act will redirect the NIL focus for some student-athletes still figuring out how to proceed.
“I’m sure there will be other folks doing charitable work — I’m sure of it,” Shannon Gibbons said. “I hope other kids follow in those footsteps and try to help other people. Any time you can be generous and help folks, that’s good for everybody. That’s the quality of giving back.”