COLUMBUS - Not even 30-degree temperatures and a steady wind could keep the smiles from Sam and Caryn Covelli's faces on Saturday.
Surrounded by their three children, Candace, Danielle and Albert, and Ohio State President Gordon Gee, the Covelli family presented their donation of $10 million to The Ohio State University Athletic Department to go toward building a new multi-sports arena, which will be named Covelli Arena.
"It was cold, it was fun, it was great," Sam Covelli said. "My kids, my family, they really enjoyed it."
On Wednesday, it was announced that the Covellis would be giving the donation during Saturday's Ohio State-Michigan game at halftime. The donation is the single largest cash gift from an individual donor to the Department of Athletics. Covelli owns about 250 Panera restaurants, the country's largest owner.
The new 4,000-seat arena, which will house seven Olympic sports, is set to break ground in 2014-15. Though the opening of the new facility is still years away, Covelli couldn't hide his excitement of being a part of the project.
"We are so glad we are able to give this donation to the university," Covelli said. "It's going to be great for a lot of student athletes.
"My wife and I had discussed ways to become involved down here. We had met so many student athletes, administrators and constantly were making relationships on this campus and everyone was so nice. We knew this project was coming up at the time and we thought this would be the perfect project to become involved in. We are proud we can do it."
The donation by the family is one close to their hearts, as Covelli said numerous times how much they cherish the university and the city of Columbus. However, the Warren entrepreneur was quick to credit the Mahoning Valley, as the donation would not have been possible without his home base of Warren.
"If it wasn't for the people in our community and in the Valley, we would not be able to do what we did today," Covelli said. "I want to thank all those loyal customers over the years."
And the Covellis picked the perfect game to present the check - in front of 105,899 fans during the Michigan game. Covelli said it wasn't planned, but couldn't conceal his smile when being on the field during The Game.
"I didn't plan on it, but thanks to Ohio State for allowing it to happen. But now we better win. If we don't win I'm going to be mad!"
Covelli left The Horseshoe happy, as the Buckeyes won, 26-21.