By Joseph Pratt
During a celebrity basketball game with Ohio State University Football alumni, the Steven A. Hunter Hope Fund brought in $6,500 to go towards the Steven Power Pack initiative. The money raised will buy over 2,100 power packs, which can be broken down into over 8,600 meals.
The Steven A. Hunter Hope Fund serves local children in various capacities, most known for its work with feeding children in need with the Steven’s Power Pack program. The organization was founded in 2006 and has grown steadily since, now feeding children in nine local schools, having provided over 65,000 meals and is currently serving 500 kids. They also run a summer meals program that has provided over 55,000 meals. Numbers are expected to go up next year.
The organization teamed up with the Driven Foundation to make this game possible. The Driven Foundation is an organization that operates out of Columbus. Driven is a 501(C)3 philanthropy group that is committed to providing a continuum of support services, along with educational and fitness programming, to families and youths throughout Central Ohio and surrounding cities.
The group teamed up with the Hunter Hope Fund last year to provide a benefit football game and returned this year for their basketball fundraiser. This was the sixth game they have played this year and featured Team Hall and Team Smith going head to head with other OSU alumni and 10 other locals. The organization raises around $100,000 annually for Ohio charities.
Roy Hall, president of the Driven Foundation, founded the program in 2008 after a conversation with Peyton Manning about giving back to the community through philanthropy.
“We want to help people outside of just entertaining them on the football field,” Hall said. “So, we got rolling and decided to be versatile in what we do and we now help kids and families throughout the state of Ohio by connecting with organizations like the Hope Fund. It is a lot of fun and it has been really awesome. Whenever your motivation is to help other people, it is pretty encouraging and you don’t want to quit.”
The former football players are on the court with their current career.
“It doesn’t make sense right? It is just ridiculous,” Hall said. “We are athletes though and that is the game of choice. When a lot of football players wrap up their football career, a lot of us go to basketball. You can’t really run around the field by yourself, but we can still get physical in the gym and play ball. Basketball does that.”
Hall led a question and answer session before the game, after the sponsors and guests ate dinner. The players were all available for questioning and answered many hard questions about old teammates, the controversy of paid college athletes, coaching and more. One thing everyone in the the room shared in common was the interest in smashing Michigan University’s football team.
“On the field, we were really only for people’s entertainment. During a game, you only see our jersey and our number. People don’t really see athletes as people. We like these games and events, because people get to see who is under the helmet and who we really are. We get to meet our fans and talk. We like to show we are caring and like to give back, even off the field. We just want to show that we didn’t take the opportunities we were given for granted,” Hall explained as he wrapped up the pre-game question and answer session.
Community guests to play ball included Brandon Entler, Portsmouth West basketball standout and graduate 1992-1996; Hayden Dunn, who will attend Ohio Christian University to play basketball, as well as pursue a degree in education; Ryan Carpenter, Shawnee State University (SSU) graduate of nursing; Juice Smith; Jeremy Mathis, who went to school with Steven Hunter, is a respiratory therapist at Kings Daughters Medical Center; Andrew Bendolph , PHS graduate, plays basketball at SSU; Chris Mauk, 1998 graduate of Wheelersburg High School, played for the Wheelersburg basketball team for four years; David Barned, member of the 1988 Division II State Basketball Champions and also played basketball at Cedarville College; Steve Sowkulech, graduated from SSU in social sciences and works at the Scioto County Board of Developmental Disabilities; and Darien Moore, who attended Rio Grande University on a track scholarship.
Portsmouth High School (PHS) was also instrumental in the fundraiser. PHS provided the space for the game, Principal Doug Poage was overseeing facilities and Athletic Director Joe Albrecht announced during the game.
OSU players include Simon Frazier, who was a member of the 2002 Buckeye squad that won the National Championship in double overtime against the Miami Hurricanes. Frazier also played four seasons in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns and the Atlanta Falcons. Other members include eight players. Thomas Matthews; Tyler Everett, who played three seasons with the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys after leaving OSU; Roy Hall, who spent four seasons with the Indianapolis Colts; Dustin Fox, who was a four year starter for the Buckeyes and played for the Minnesota Vikings, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Buffalo Bills over his four years in the NFL; Antonio Smith, who was a Jim Thorpe Award semi-finalist during his time with Ohio State and played three seasons in the NFL with the Colts and Cincinnati Bengals; another successful defensive back for the Buckeyes was Nick Patterson, who had a perfect 5-0 career record against arch rival Michigan; Tyler Whaley, offensive lineman for Ohio State, who also played for the Bengals.
“I went to school with Steven from kindergarten to freshman year of college. We were real close and I considered him one of my best friends. He was just a real good guy,” Jeremy Mathis, friend of Steven Hunter and guest player, said. “I knew they were having this event, and when I was asked to play, I was very excited to do so, for Steven. I think the Hunter Foundation is wonderful. They do a lot of good things for a lot of people; they are just very admirable people.”
Team Hall finally snapped their three game losing streak to Team Smith, brining home the win with a score of 98 to 60.
“The proceeds from this event will go a long way,” Mark Hunter said. “Virgie and I couldn’t have been more pleased and we are so thankful for all those who were involved, especially Blair and Joy Copen, who made it completely possible. We also have to thank Roy for helping us and being so passionate about kids. Most of all, we have to thank god and all that he has done.”
Joseph Pratt can be reached at the Portsmouth Daily Times 740-353-3101, EXT 287, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.