December 27, 2013 at 2:28 am

Terry Foster

If this is final Pizza Bowl, it saved best for last while helping two military families

Detroit — The impact of Thursday’s Little Caesars Pizza Bowl game is only just beginning for two Detroit area families.

The bowl went out with a bang with an exciting game that saw Pittsburgh beat Bowling Green, 30-27 — and it sparked the lives of two military families who desperately needed some help. They both were given homes during a surprising and tearful halftime ceremony at Ford Field.

The only thing United States Army Lt. Anthony Ashford, of Detroit, wanted to do was carry the game ball to midfield at the beginning of the game. That’s all he expected. But he walked out with so much more.

The game might signal the end of this bowl after a nice 17-year run. But it never will be forgotten by Ashford and Sgt. Todd Beesley of Flat Rock and his family. Both were given houses at halftime, a collaborative effort by Quicken Loans, Bank of America and National Faith Home Buyers.

More kudos go out to former University of Detroit baseball coach Bob Miller, who pushed for this to happen.

No more small quarters

Beesley and his wife, Jennifer, have six children. They are Todd Jr. 17; Kyle, 15; Ashley, 12; Collin, 10; Jayden, 2; and Jayce, 8 months. The family ran out of room in its modular home. The living room was Jayden’s bedroom; the nursery was a den.

“The house is small,” Beesley said. “But you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”

This could be the end of the Little Caesars Bowl, as the Lions are going to host a bowl game at Ford Field starting next year. It is a shame. The Motor City/Little Caesars Bowl might be done changing lives.

“Stuff like this is amazing,” Beesley said. “They should continue this forever. It is an amazing thing. It fits with having a bowl game like this. Life is full of surprises and I think it should stay this way.”

Before the game, Beesley and Ashford walked to midfield to present the game ball. Then they were told to bring out their entire families for halftime. After the bands played, their lives were changed forever.

Even after Beesley was presented his home, Ashford still did not have a clue he would get one, too. “I was just happy for the Sergeant,” he said. “I got a game ball, so I was just good with that.”

The men who once protected our nation finally got paid back.

“This just doesn’t seem real,” Jennifer Beesley said. “I just don’t know what to say.”

A helping hand

The home comes in handy for Ashford. He lost his health-care job in September and has had trouble making rent. There are programs set up to help, but Ashford was embarrassed to take the money. He is used to protecting and providing.

“It is going to enhance my life,” Ashford said. “I have been struggling lately.”

Now he has a house to share with his wife, Kaprina, and three sons, Joshua, who is a student at Kentucky State; Christian, who recently was accepted at Tennessee State; and Jason Booker.

There are programs to help the military. But it’s not enough.

“There are a lot of soldiers that come home that suffer from ailments that makes it more difficult for them to reintegrate with society,” Ashford said. “So I think there should be more programs to help.”

If this was last call for this bowl, it went out with a bang.

Pittsburgh coach Paul Chryst is presented with the championship trophy by former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, left, after the Panthers defeated Bowling Green, 30-27, in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl Thursday at Ford Field. / Carlos Osorio / Associated Press
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