Friendly March Madness game at popular Loveland restaurant turns into $820 donation for Loveland LIFE Food Pantry

By Chuck Gibson

 LOVELAND, OH (March 30, 2020) – When coronavirus (COVID-19) cancelled the NCAA March Madness college basketball tournament, Paxton’s Grill was left holding the bag – well sort of.

       Paxton’s Grill (File Photo)

Prior to Governor Mike DeWine’s order to close, Paxton’s Grill had posted a March Madness “squares” game board on their wall for customers to buy a square which would represent a team in the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament. Customers signed their name to the square hoping their team would win and they could collect a share of the prize at the end. The NCAA March Madness was cancelled and Paxton’s Grill closed in response to COVID-19.  

There would be no March Madness winner. Or, so it seemed. The only fair thing to do was for Ralph Dunnigan, Paxton’s ownership partner to contact the “square-holders” to return their investment. That was his intent when Kevin Egan, also ownership partner suggested another idea.

“Ralph was going to call everybody back and tell them to come pick up their money,” explained Egan. “I said wait a minute, let’s give them an option. When you are making phone calls, ask them, they’re welcome to come pick up their money, or we’re also taking donations for the LIFE Food Pantry.”


Egan was going on the theory, once people put that money down, they consider it gone anyway. He’d been talking with another Loveland man who helps out with the LIFE Food Pantry. Through that conversation, he learned March is a planned big fundraising month for the organization.

 “With everything that’s going down, the big kibosh was put on that as well,” said Egan. “Everybody Ralph was able to reach agreed absolutely to make the donation to LIFE Food Pantry.”

With only a couple days remaining in March, the money accumulated by the Paxton’s Grill March Madness “square holders” amounted to $820. All of that will be donated to LIFE Food Pantry to continue to help Loveland families in need during the COVID-19 response and beyond.

“It’s about the people in the community of Loveland,” Egan said. “Those are the majority of people who are in there (Paxton’s), who are going to make bets on the March Madness pool. They all decided to come together and, instead of taking their money back, redirected it to the Loveland Food Pantry.”

Each person Dunnigan reached agreed without hesitation to donate their March Madness Pool money. When Egan heard of the response, it served to renew an already good feeling he has for the community where we all live; especially during this challenging time for everyone.

“Oh my gosh it confirms everything I’ve always loved about this community,” he said. “It helps me, in this time of division within our country, this time of high anxiety where people are isolated, locking themselves down, that people still think of others, still willing to help. To me it is a testament to human character. People want to help if given the opportunity.”

Ralph Dunnigan of Paxton’s Grill is in touch with Linda Bergholz, Director of LIFE Food Pantry, making arrangements to deliver the cash donation. It is sure to mean a March Madness winner for many Loveland families in need.

Click here for ways to donate or help LIFE Food Pantry