Saturday’s showdown more than game for FSU’s Fisher, Virginia’s London

Florida State Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher gets a hug from his 9-year-old son Ethan Fisher following their 37-12 victory over the Citadel.

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Jimbo Fisher and the Florida State Seminoles take on Mike London and the Virginia Cavaliers in an ACC showdown Saturday.

This is a pivotal game for both teams as they transition into the home stretch of their seasons, but to their head coaches, this weekend’s matchup is far more than a game. It’s an opportunity to aid in finding a cure for a disease that hits close to home: Fanconi anemia.

Fanconi anemia is a rare genetic blood disease that leads to bone marrow failure and can lead to birth defects and cancer. The disease affects more than 131,000 children a year, including Fisher’s 9-year-old son Ethan and London’s 18-year-old daughter Ticynn.

According to the Kidz 1st Fund, a foundation Fisher and his wife Candi started in 2011 to raise awareness for the treatment and research of Fanconi anemia, the probability of two Division I head football coaches both having a child with Fanconi anemia and facing each other in a game is one in 990 billion.

Nearly 100 percent of Fanconi anemia patients need high-risk bone marrow transplants before adulthood, but even then the average life expectancy for those with FA is just 29 years.

During Saturday’s game, the Seminoles will be holding their second annual Touchdown Pledge Drive. For every Florida State touchdown, a donation will be made to the Kidz 1st Fund.

Additionally, the foundation will present a $1 million check during the game to the University of Minnesota Children’s Hospital, the nation’s largest treatment center for Fanconi anemia patients.

"Sharing the sidelines and bringing awareness to Fanconi anemia with Coach London is an honor," Fisher said. "At the end of the day, there is nothing more important than family, and Coach and I are fighting for much more than a football victory during this game."

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Florida State’s Touchdown Pledge Drive was started last year by reserve tight end Kevin Haplea. It raised more than $9,000 in a 59-3 win over Syracuse last season, and this time "Hap" and the rest of the Seminoles are looking to top the $10,000 mark.

"We definitely always want to win, but this game we want to go a little further and score touchdowns for a great cause," Haplea said. "Everyone’s really excited about it."

Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo is also one of the player representatives along with Haplea, and he is more than willing to take a game off from booting kicks through the uprights to help kids like Ethan and Ticynn.

"Obviously this week is a different week because of the pledge drive," Aguayo said. "We want to score more touchdowns and I’d rather be kicking more extra points than field goals this week."

Fisher shared his appreciation for his players’ hard work in setting up such a beneficial campaign as the Touchdown Pledge Drive during his press conference on Monday.

"It’s amazing to me what those kids … you think they all care about themselves, but that’s not true," Fisher said. "I mean what Kevin is doing and what Roberto and all those guys… My hat’s off to them and the greatest thanks, because it’s not just for us, it’s for all the other children who have it and giving them hope. I think these guys get the big picture a lot, and that’s what it’s about."

If you would like to pledge, click here.