‘Hope’ returns to Beeghly Center

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Participants in the spring 2011 Game of Hope huddle together after the game. Jambar file photo.

The eighth annual Game of Hope will return to Beeghly Center on Saturday in hopes of adding to the $60,000 the game has raised since 2005 for chronically ill children.

The Hope Foundation of the Mahoning Valley and its founder Tony Spano organize each event. 

Local celebrities, politicians and media personalities are scheduled to face off in a basketball game.

Spano envisioned the event when he graduated college. He said he felt a calling to help underprivileged area children. 

“My favorite part of this event is seeing everyone come out in support of a great cause,” Spano said. “I love seeing everyone involved having a great time.” 

Jim Davis, an Austintown trustee, and Laura Meeks, Eastern Gateway Community College president, were selected to coach one team. WYTV news anchor Stan Boney and Youngstown State University President Cynthia Anderson will coach the other team. 

This will be Boney’s first year participating in the Game of Hope, and he has high expectations. 

“I have never coached basketball before,” Boney said. “I am looking at this as a charity game, but I know when the game is tied with eight minutes to go, things are going to get competitive.”

Boney said he played basketball in high school, but other than pickup games with his friends, he knows the game of basketball fairly well. 

“I’m certainly not coaching dance or baton twirling, something that I know nothing about,” Boney said. “I understand basketball.”

Boney will have some experience on his team with state Sen. Joe Schiavoni returning to the game. Schiavoni said he was too short to play on the high school basketball team, but did play for his seventh and eighth grade team. He still plays with his friends and added that he is excited about playing in front of people.  

“You’re used to playing around, but when you get on the big court it’s a little different,” Schiavoni said. “I just hope I don’t throw the ball through the back board or anything.”

Schiavoni said he feels that he is prepared for the game even though he wasn’t able to be at the team’s practice earlier in the week because of work.  

“I haven’t done any ‘Rocky’ workouts, but I am in shape. I’m ready to go,” Schiavoni said. 

Pregame events will consist of performances by national recording artist Sarah Turner and Michael Harrison from United Baptist Church in Youngstown. 

Spano said the event had nearly 1,000 spectators in attendance last year, with all of the proceeds being given to the Hope Foundation of the Mahoning Valley.

A dance team will perform during halftime, coupled with activities such as a half-court shot and various celebrity appearances. 

Spano said the event grew so fast in its first eight years that it needed “its own entity.”  

“The game grew so fast,” Spano said. “My board of volunteers and the community’s support are the main reasons for its rapid success.”

WKBN’s Chad Krispinsky and Bob Hannon, CEO of the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley, will also broadcast the game with a play by play. 

The game will tip off at 4:30 p.m. in Beeghly Center, and tickets are $6 at the door.