Dillan Gibbons raises money to send Timothy Donovan to ND-FSU game

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Sunday night's game is a dream come true for Timothy Donovan, a huge Notre Dame football fan. Former Irish player Dillan Gibbons used the name, image and likeness policy to raise money to bring Timothy to Tally.

Timothy has been raised on Notre Dame football. His parents took him to his first game when he was 5 years old.

"When I try to describe Notre Dame to people, it's like heaven on earth," said Tim Donovan, Timothy's dad. "There's nobody else I'd rather do it with."

Timothy was a miracle.

He was born with VACTERL, a disorder that affects many of the body's systems. he was not expected to survive.

He has endured more than 50 surgeries, including one to straighten his spine. He also fought thyroid cancer.

"He's the strongest person I know," said Paula Donovan, Timothy's mother.

Timothy's love for the Irish has kept him going.

"When Timothy was in the hospital, we bought him that little button that plays the fight song. So, we put it in his little bassinet and we would just play the song for him. Whenever he would get fussy or something, we thought to help him calm down. Because we knew he had to grow up to be a Notre Dame fan," Paula said.

As much as he loves the Irish, Timothy will be cheering for the Florida State Seminoles on Sunday. Well, at least one Seminoles player in particular.

"Dillan Gibbons," Timothy said.

Gibbons, an FSU offensive lineman, cashed in on the name, image and likeness policy and raised money on GoFundMe to bring "Timothy to Tally."

"In a little under 24 hours I ended up raising over $30,000 from the generous donations from the FSU's fan base and Notre Dame's fan base," Gibbons said.

Why would a Seminole want to send an Irish fan to Tallahassee?

Timothy has been to so many Notre Dame games in his 18 years that his family has lost count. Each one just as meaningful as the next.

The 2017 season opener against Temple changed his life.

"We usually do go out there after the games when the players come out just so Timothy can get an autograph or a picture," Paula said.

That's when he first met Gibbons, who at that time just finished his first game as a Notre Dame O-lineman.

"You walk out through the back of the stadium and you're greeted by about 30-40 little kids. All of them want you to sign something, or they want your gloves or maybe even want the hat off your head," Gibbons said. "I made eye contact with Timothy. He was sitting in the back in his wheel chair with his mom, Paula, just standing there next to him. And I walked over there, knelt down beside him and we ended up having a conversation. The conversation felt like we were only there for about 5 minutes, turned out it was like 40 minutes."

That conversation turned into a friendship.

The GoFundMe campaign has gotten bigger than they could have ever imagined.

What started as a fundraiser to get Timothy and his family a trip to the game has turned into much more. So far it has raised more than $50,000.

"I started this whole thing with a simple message. I just wanted to give him his day in the sun. And there really isn't a limit to what that is, or what it could be. It doesn't have to stop after the Notre Dame game. The money we have raised for him has been awesome and money's great. It does a lot for his family. It helps him and elevates his quality of life and his continued care," Gibbons said.

Timothy took to social media to share his gratitude.

“I really appreciate the love and support. I’m so excited and looking forward to cheering for my friend Dillan in Florida," Timothy said in his message on social media.

Gibbons feels the same way about Timothy.

"When he was a little kid, I mean it was his 7th birthday, he didn't ask for presents, right. He just didn't want presents. Instead, he made a GoFundMe, a GoFundMe to raise money for to give people wheelchairs, to give little kids wheelchairs that couldn't afford them or didn't have the ability to get them," Gibbons said. "So, we're very like-minded individuals. At the end of the day, I believe Timothy would do the same thing, if he had the ability, for me, if he was in this position."

While Timothy may be a Gibbons fan he and his parents still love Notre Dame.

Head Coach Brian Kelly found out about Timothy and sent him a personal message.

"Timothy, hey!  We're all with you. What Dillan has done for you has been really exciting in the community. We're looking forward to seeing you this fall. As the coach of Notre Dame, you've got a free invitation to get out to a game. And let's make sure everything goes well for you, and we'll see you this fall."

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