YOUNGSTOWN, OH (WKBN) – It all started with a pick-up basketball game with local personalities and politicians. This week’s Hometown Hero Tony Spano, is the Founder of The Hope Foundation of the Mahoning Valley, an organization which helps chronically ill children.
It was the inaugural Game of Hope which raised $1,500 that motivated Spano to do more. As a YSU student he worked under the leadership of Greg Gulas, director of student activities.
“He was my greek campus life co-chair, he also did homecoming for me, the bottom line is he’s accountable for everything he does. And he has a big heart that just cares about giving back to the community and that’s why he’s one of your Hometown Heroes,” Gulas said.
It was because of the Game of Hope that the Hope foundation was born.
“At the time I was in a fraternity, a community volunteer fraternity, we gave money to less fortunate kids. When you graduate you kind of need to fill the void. In 2005, we formed the Game of Hope at YSU, which kind of all started this. Next thing you know, the third year the Game of Hope exploded and we started the Hope foundation,” Spano said.
The Hope Foundation provides charitable and financial support to local agencies serving local and regional chronically or terminally ill children.
“Tour some of the facilities and go around to where you’ve given money to, that serve either therapy or types of cancer funds that you can see how the funds are working. We have about 100 volunteers throughout the year, that take ownership of the foundation more than I have. Especially in Youngstown, when it’s a great organization, people are going to rally around it,” Spano said.
Spano has a smart phone full of heavy hitters around the Valley. Politicians, local celebrities, that even double as bartenders. The Game of Hope has branched out to other events including a wine event and a bocce tournament. Spano can be seen supporting other Valley charity events as well. He has even received national recognition for his work.
“Congressman Ryan, a couple years ago, gave me special recognition from the work I’ve done in the community, as well as what I’ve done for the hope foundation,” Spano said.
Even with national recognition, Spano is giving all of the credit to the community.
“Organizations and people around the community have made the foundation. I’ve just been the ignitor and these people have rallied around the foundation. So you have to give credit to the volunteers, to the board members, to the partners that really trusted us and entrusted us in what we were doing in the community,” Spano said.