By Greg Gulas
The Hope Foundation of the Mahoning Valley was founded in 2007 and as a non-profit organization, its mission is the furtherance of charitable and financial support to and for the area’s chronically and terminally ill children.
The foundation provides grants and other services which support local charities that share the organization’s vision and goals, having now raised over $200,000 in monies and services since its inception.
Using sports as a platform in order to raise awareness for its cause has been the key, Tony Spano, founder and executive director said.
While addressing the Curbstone Coaches at their weekly Monday meeting, Spano said this Saturday’s basketball classic, which will feature a combined five boys and girls basketball games, is just another way that his organization is raising awareness.
“We’ve held our Game of Hope Basketball Classic at YSU in January and our Softball Game of Hope in the summer, which pits local leaders against each other in order to raise awareness and funds,” Spano said. “Our Bocce for Hope, which has been held the past three years at the MVR restaurant, has also been well-received.
“It truly is amazing to find so many generous people willing to take part and participate, volunteer and donate to such a worthwhile cause.”
A native of Howland, Spano was a member of YSU’s Phi Kappa Tau fraternity when his brotherhood instituted the Game Ball Relay; a 45.1-mile toting of the game day football from YSU to Kent State University which would be used in the game between the two schools in 2000.
Funds that were raised were earmarked for the fraternity’s national philanthropy, “The Hole-in-the-Wall-Gang” which was founded by their brother, the late actor, Paul Newman.
The project lasted twice (they did the relay again in 2003) but when the brotherhood’s membership declined and the volunteer portion became a challenge, it was Spano that absorbed the project and reorganized his efforts into the Hope Foundation of the Mahoning Valley.
“I felt like the idea and event needed to keep going, simply because of the positive impact that it had on not only my fraternity, but locally as well,” Spano said. “Since reorganizing, it has truly been a labor of love.”
On Saturday, their next fundraising effort takes place when 10 teams (six boys and four girls squads) will square off at the historic Struthers Field House in the organization’s first high school basketball classic.
Girl’s teams include Cleveland Magnificat, Notre Dame Cathedral Latin, Canton Central Catholic and Struthers while boys squads are represented by Struthers, Ursuline, LaBrae, Akron St. Vincent/St. Mary, Notre Dame Cathedral Latin and Seton (IL) Academy.
The action gets under way at 2 p.m.
Kent State University baseball coach Scott Stricklin will serve as the Curbstone Coaches guest speaker on Dec. 10.