Nick Gilbert, the bespectacled 14-year-old known for his bow tie, left a lasting impression during the 2011 NBA Draft Lottery. As the son of Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, he brought good luck to the team, helping them secure the first pick. But Nick's significance extended beyond basketball; he served as an ambassador for the Children's Tumor Network, raising awareness for neurofibromatosis (NF) type 1.
NF is a genetic disorder that causes tumors to develop along nerve pathways. It affects approximately one in every 2,000 people worldwide and can lead to various complications, including vision and hearing loss, bone abnormalities, and chronic pain. Nick personally battled the effects of NF, undergoing surgeries, radiation, and chemotherapy, and facing the challenges of prolonged hospital stays and physical limitations.
Despite his struggles, Nick remained incredibly positive and never allowed his condition to dampen his spirit. Laura Grannemann, the executive director of the Gilbert Family Foundation, emphasizes that Nick consistently found ways to communicate and connect with those he loved. In May, at the age of 26, Nick passed away due to complications from NF.
To honor Nick's memory and his iconic bow tie, the Rocket Mortgage Classic has dedicated a day called "Bow Tie Day" at the Detroit Golf Club. The event aims to raise funds for the fight against NF. The Gilbert family has deep ties to the city of Detroit and a strong connection to the tournament, which celebrates its fifth anniversary this year. Dan Gilbert, a billionaire philanthropist and the founder of Rocket Mortgage, considers his son his personal hero and has committed $500 million over the next decade to revitalize Detroit neighborhoods.
Jason Langwell, the executive director of the Rocket Mortgage Classic, acknowledges the significant impact the Gilbert family has had on the community. He recognizes that their efforts have not only transformed businesses but also shaped a legacy that goes beyond mere commerce. Although Langwell didn't know Nick as intimately as others, he felt the special aura that surrounded him and admired his ability to radiate positive energy despite the challenges he faced.
The idea for Bow Tie Day came together swiftly after Nick's passing. The Cleveland Cavaliers dedicated their 2022-23 season to him, prominently displaying the emblem on their warm-up jackets and lapels. Building upon this concept, the Rocket Mortgage Classic has incorporated the bow tie symbol into every caddie bib, replacing player names with Nick Gilbert's name on the back. These autographed bibs will be collected and donated to NF Forward for future fundraising endeavors, along with pin flags signed during player registration.
During the tournament, pin flags featuring the Rocket Mortgage Classic bow tie will adorn the ninth and 18th holes. The first 10,000 attendees will receive a bow tie pin, and attendees can purchase specially shaped bow tie cookies. QR codes placed on signage throughout the event will allow fans to learn more about NF and make donations.
All funds raised will be matched by the Gilbert Family Foundation, which has already contributed nearly $100 million to NF research, with their primary fundraiser exceeding $50 million.
Grannemann believes that celebrating Nick's life during the tournament is a perfect fit, as it aligns with his passion for bringing people together. She recalls how Nick would often share innovative and impactful ideas with her, connecting different individuals and fostering collaboration. Bow Tie Day embodies this spirit of unity and fun.
Nick's incredible resilience and unwavering determination serve as an inspiration to all. Grannemann highlights his refusal to let his diagnosis hinder him and his unwavering drive to move forward. He was a beacon of optimism, extroversion, and inclusiveness, always dedicated to bringing people together. The Rocket Mortgage Classic serves as an