By KATIE SEMINARA
vindicator Staff Writer
YOUNGSTOWN — Forbes got it wrong.
That’s the belief of Youngstown’s All Heart creators, Handel’s President Leonard Fisher and Jim Brown, Handel’s chief operating officer.
At the beginning of August, Youngstown was deemed one of the top 10 dying cities by Forbes, hinting that the rust on the Valley isn’t capable of removal.
“We can show the people of Forbes that we aren’t one of the worst cities, but that we’re one of the best,” said Fisher.
Since its kickoff nearly two weeks ago, Youngstown’s All Heart has received warm reception in the greater Youngstown area and as far away as California.
Both Fisher and Brown said that the response to the foundation is something for Valley residents to get excited about.
“We should look at what people are trying to do, not at vacant homes or unemployment,” said Brown of his disappointment after reading the Forbes article.
During the introductory weekend of Youngstown’s All Heart, $14,000 was raised for Joe Kaluza, the KFC manager who was paralyzed from the neck down after being shot during a robbery.
That number has since grown with the sales of the Youngstown’s All Heart message bracelets and people sending in donations. This weekend, the foundation has the potential to raise more than $15,000 in one day.
Youngstown’s All Heart and the Mahoning Valley Scrappers will join forces Sunday to increase the dollar amount during the Scrappers game at Eastwood Field in Niles that starts at 6:05 p.m.
People attending the game can bring a voucher from Handel’s, and for each voucher collected, $2 will go to the Kaluza fund. Vouchers can be obtained from local Handel’s Ice Cream locations or online at handelsicecream.com.
“We want to break the highest attendance record,” said Brown, which would mean a little more than 7,700 people would have to show for the game.
The players already wore the “do more ... be more” bracelets during the Youngstown’s All Heart kick-off weekend, and some of the players wear them every game, said Jordan Taylor, assistant general manager of the Scrappers.
“We try to be community-minded,” said Taylor. “We want to do what we can, whether it be for Joe or anyone else with a similar situation.” Sunday’s game will provide a number of ways for people to donate to Youngstown’s All Heart, said Taylor. There will be a silent auction, canisters passed around, and before the game at 5 p.m., a wine-tasting event that costs $10 — two of which will go to the Kaluza fund.
The Scrappers aren’t the only ones who have stepped up to bat for Youngstown’s All Heart. Other local businesses are starting to donate their services, sell the bracelets or are simply giving.
Lamar Advertising owns a number of local billboards and this week will use three digital boards in the area to promote Youngstown’s All Heart and the Sunday game.
“We felt it was a great cause and great for the community,” said Clinton Nickas, Lamar sales manager, of teaming up with Handel’s in support of Youngstown’s All Heart.
Six of the local Huntington Bank offices are selling the red wristbands to raise more money.
The bank offices generally do not sell things, but regional marketing manager Sandy Lasko said because Kaluza was a Huntington customer, the offices were more compelled to participate.
“It is important to, like they say, have a heart and just pitch in what you can,” said Lasko.
Because of those people pitching in, Kaluza has received more than $160,000 from all the donations so far, said Anna Fitzgerald, Kaluza’s sister.
“His response to the updates is simply ‘wow,’” said Fitzgerald of Kaluza, who is set to come home next week.
In Fisher and Brown’s eyes, Kaluza has a great place to come home to.
Their expectations of Youngstown’s All Heart have been exceeded, and they look to the people of Youngstown to continue giving.
“I get excited when I see someone I don’t know wearing the bracelets,” said Brown, because it’s how he knows other people are thinking along the same lines as he and Fisher.
“We asked for help and the people of the Valley responded,” said Brown. “This is the activity that people need to know about.”