Hometown Hero: Women provide kids bikes with unique fundraiser

Joan Dallessandro and Debbie Minniti began Shots for Tots to raise money for bikes for children during the holidays.

GIRARD, Ohio (WYTV) – Two friends turned a simple idea into an annual event that provides bicycles to needy families.

Joan Dallessandro and Debbie Minniti said they were walking through a store during the holidays five years ago when they noticed that the most popular item on children’s wish lists were bicycles. They began brainstorming ways to raise money to purchase bikes for the kids, and they soon came up with a unique idea to raise the funds.

The fundraiser started at their favorite local restaurant, Master’s Bar and Grille in Girard, where they made and sold jello shots and dubbed the fundraiser, “Shots for Tots.” The name stuck, and customer purchased enough jello shots to buy three or four bicycles for kids that year.

But since then, Dallessandro and Minniti took their fundraiser to a new level.

“Then we started doing different things, besides just selling the jello shots at events,” Dallessandro said. “We had raffles for baskets, and then this year was our best year ever. We had a poker run, we had a golf outing, and we raised enough money to buy 130 bicycles.”

With a name like “Shots for Tots,” the women enlisted the help of the U.S. Marines at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna, who did not hesitate in their involvement. Now, each year, they pick up the bikes, sometimes needing two trips, and then distribute them to children on Christmas.

“I think this a good opportunity for the community to see that there is good in people. I’m mean, we started off, Joan and I, and we ended up, we have about 12 people that are actually on our committee,” Minniti said. “This whole establishment, I mean, we couldn’t do it without a single raffle ticket that’s sold to somebody that just walks into the bar, and I think it just helps people to see the good in the community.”

The women hope to continue “Shots for Tots” every holiday season and say it warms their heart to see people come in and have fun for a good cause.

It is for these efforts that WYTV is recognizing Dallessandro and Minniti as this week’s Hometown Heroes award.

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