The Game of Hope Classic Returns

By Spencer Curcillo

On Feb. 8, Youngstown State University’s Beeghly Center will house the 11th annual Game of Hope Classic at 3 p.m.

The Game of Hope Classic, sponsored by the Hope Foundation of the Mahoning Valley, is one of the foundation’s largest fundraisers that feature a basketball game among various local public figures. The Hope Foundation is an organization devoted to providing financial and volunteer support to agencies serving local, chronically ill children.

John Gocala Jr, a Boardman police officer, and Felix Wright, former national football player for the Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings, will coach the game.

Anthony Spano, the founder and executive director of the Hope Foundation, said that he is happy with the support he has received from the university over the years.

“YSU has always been our partner in really bringing this event to the forefront as well as really supporting us with facilities and a variety of other set up situations,” Spano said.

Spano added that he is pleased with the support the game has received from the community.

“The event has really grown every year and is a staple in the community,” he said. “If it wasn’t for our volunteers, the community and our partners, this event wouldn’t be where it is today.”

The nonprofit Hope Foundation relies entirely on volunteers for its staff and support. Tonia Freeze, a volunteer of the past four years, encouraged members of the community to attend the game.

“I think that it’s a great game, and I think that it’s a great, fun family day for people to come together and watch some of the great men and women in our community play basketball,” Freeze said.

The event will provide food, as well as feature various games and a dance squad for entertainment before the game.

The kid’s fun zone, containing an inflatable house and mascot for younger audiences, was implemented into the event last year. Spano said that he believes its addition is appropriate for the event.

“Last year was the first year of the kid’s zone,” Spano said. “It was a brand new event. Our focus is kids. Why not bring kids to the event itself?”

Freeze was in charge of organizing the kid’s zone for this year’s event. Even though it was a step-up for her in terms of responsibility at the foundation, she found it a rewarding experience.

“It’s a big adjustment,” Freeze said. “It’s a lot more involved, but I like it. I love it. It’s what I like to do, and it’s a great charity, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

The foundation will also be receiving a $5,000 check from The Gibson Agency as part of their Giving Campaign at a ceremony held during the event.

Tickets for the event are $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 12 and under.