Bocce for Hope: More than just a game

Deane Shane-Houteau and Ray Houteau of ABC’s The Amazing Race, both participated in last year’s Bocce for Hope tournament. Photo courtesy of Tony Spano.

Deane Shane-Houteau and Ray Houteau of ABC’s The Amazing Race, both participated in last year’s Bocce for Hope tournament. Photo courtesy of Tony Spano.

On Monday, Cassese’s MVR Italian Restaurant & Bar is partnering up with the Hope Foundation of the Mahoning County to offer Youngstown State University students and community members the chance to play bocce for more than just the fun of the game.

Carmstrong Bocce for Hope, previously known as Bocce for Hope, is an event where teams of four compete in games of bocce to raise funds for the Carmstrong scholarship at YSU and for the Hope Foundation of the Mahoning County.

Tony Spano, the founder and executive director of the Hope Foundation of the Mahoning County, says that the organization does more than just what the title suggests.

“All of our proceeds from the night go straight to the foundations,” said Spano, “this whole thing is about helping the kids and benefiting the Carmstrong scholarship.”

In order to be placed on a team, single players must pay $25. If a team of four wishes to compete, the fee is $100. For YSU students who wish to participate, the fee for a single player is $10 and a team of four is $40. Pizza and non-alcoholic refreshments will also be provided to each team.

During the night, local celebrities will bartend and community figures donate their time to help raise funds and draw crowds to the event. This year, some of the celebrity bartenders include John Barnes, the new YSU Women’s Basketball coach, and Ann Marie Martin, a former YSU women’s basketball all-star.

Many other figures will be present at the MVR for the event, including Sen. Joe Schiavoni, Ohio democratic senator for Mahoning and Columbiana counties and a long time supporter of Carmstrong Bocce for Hope.

Schiavoni said that the organization has a big impact on the community.

“Anything helps, especially here in the Valley. We don’t have a lot of rich people, but we have people who give what they can.” he said, “Everybody works together as a team and pulls together when others need help.”

The organization raises around $3,000 to $5,000 each year to donate to the benefactors.

Spano said that for a small, volunteer run program, the numbers are astounding.

“If you think about it, we are a pretty small area. To come up with that amount is great, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t still raise more each year,” Spano said.

Spano said that the MVR has always been a huge help when it comes to the fundraiser.

“The Cassese family has donated their time and their facility year after year,” he said, “it’s people and places like that that make the organization as successful as it is.”

Spano donates his free time to organizing this and other “for Hope” events throughout the year. He said that this event would not be possible without wonderful people who belong to a wonderful community.

“If it wasn’t for the volunteers, the board of trustees and the community as a whole, the organization wouldn’t be where it is today,” Spano said.