Football for hope

By Nikki Blankenship -

Local resident Blair Floyd is yet again teaming up with the Steven A. Hunter Hope Fund to fight childhood food insecurity across the region.

Floyd explained that Saturday will be the Fifth Annual Flag Football for a Cause event, starting at 11 a.m., at the Trojan Coliseum in Portsmouth. All proceeds from the event go directly to the Steven A. Hunter Hope Fund Power Pack Program that provides weekend meals to 11,000 elementary school children.

Mark Hunter, found of the Hope Fund, explained that his son Steven died in 2006.

“He was a good boy. He was always concerned with people who didn’t have enough to eat or didn’t have clothes,” Mark explained.

He remembers his son being that compassionate since the first grade. After his death, Mark and his wife Virgie wanted to continue to take care of people as Steven would have. Initially, they started just helping Portsmouth Elementary School students by providing financial resources to those in need. Then, in 2009, Virgie told Mark that she did not feel they were doing enough for local kids and explained how many children were only getting nutritious meals provided at school and have little to nothing to eat at home.

“At first, I was in disbelief,” Hunter stated.

Then, as he started to consider the area’s demographics, he knew she was right. That night, the couple started doing some research and found the Freestore Foodbank, the regional foodbank out of Cincinnati. Freestore was already offering backpacks of kid-friendly foods that were easy to open, easy to prepare and nutritious. And, Freestore subsidizes 30 percent of the cost. The Hunters partnered with Freestore in 2010 when they started sending backpacks home with students at Portsmouth and Portsmouth East elementaries. Backpacks now go out to 18 schools, including every public elementary school in Scioto County, four in Pike County and a school in Manchester.

The Hope Fund pays $3 per Power Pack, a cost that quickly adds up. The flag football game is one way the Hunters are able to feed so many children in need.

“We’re still looking at one in three kids in Scioto County facing food insecurity,” Mark commented. “We love to do this. This is our passion. I can’t say enough about how this community loves its children. It has taken a lot of community support to do what we’ve done.”

In addition to providing food, the Hunters still help with clothing, hygiene items and give blankets to all 11,000 at Christmas.

Floyd first got involved with the Hope Fund five years ago as he sat with a friend at an Ohio State football game. He talked about how a flag football game among local high school alumni members could be a fun way to help a local charity. That night, he talked to his wife,who recommended the Hope Fund.

“I’ll be honest. Five years ago, I had not heard of it,” Floyd commented. “I looked it up, and it was exactly what I wanted to play for. It is absolutely rewarding to be able to hand Mark a check because you know what it is going for. He and Virgie turned a tragedy into something that is truly remarkable.”

Floyd explained that alumni players from West, Northwest and Portsmouth will be playing with a LifePoint team. There will also be some guest players from the Ohio State Buckeyes.

The first game will start at 11 a.m., and the second will follow at noon. After both teams have played, visitors and players will enjoy food from the Brew Pub. Food is provided by contributions from LifePoint, and Krogers donated the drinks. Admission to the event is $7, which includes both games and dinner. Tickets will be on sale the day of the event.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Mark commented. “We’re thrilled to death that Blair does this.”

By Nikki Blankenship

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.