By Joseph Pratt
The Steven A Hunter Hope Fund is netting up for its 9th Annual Steven A Hunter Tennis Tournament next weekend, which continues to be the humanitarian organization’s largest money raising event of the year.
The tournament is set up as flighted doubles men’s, women’s, mixed round robin format. The registration fee remains at only $25 per player, in order to keep the cost affordable for players, but also allow the organization to raise much needed funds.
Executive Director Mark Hunter says the need for the event is dire, especially with the organization growing so much and having a yearly budget of nearly $100,000.
“It continues to be our largest fundraiser,” Hunter explained. “We are looking to raise about $20,000 and push us over $100,000 raised by the tennis tournament since inception, which is absolutely incredible.”
The group is named in honor of Mark and Virgie’s late son, Steven Hunter. Mark describes Steven’s charisma and energy as one that was contagious in the desire to help others. The proud parents started the organization in Portsmouth High School alone, but quickly grew to the entire district and soon grew to surrounding schools. Today, the Steven A. Hunter Hope Fund has programming to clothe students, assist in dental and eye exams, provide scholarships, feed children and more. They currently serve over 750 students in 11 local school districts.
The focus of the Hope Fund has definitely become the food program that feeds local children who are labeled as being possibly food insecure by school staff members.
In Ohio, 44 percent of children live in families poor enough to qualify for free or reduced price school meals. According to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap: Child Food Insecurity, more than one in four Ohio children do not always know where their next meal will come from. These numbers are why Mark and Virgie Hunter began pursuing the challenge with such force with the Steven A. Hunter Hope Fund and their Steven’s Power Packs.
The Steven’s Power Packs are packaged boxes of food for a child in need to take home with them over the weekend. The concept was based off the idea that some kids might not get enough to eat over the course of the weekend, when they are not in school.
A Power Pack has 5 pounds of food and is engineered to have four meals per pack. Freestore Foodbank is the supplier of the individually packed meals and Hunter said it costs the Hope Fund around $3 per pack and only $120 a year per student.
The tennis tournament itself is organized by Steven’s former coach, Jim Daehler.
“I couldn’t have the tournament without Jim; it is entirely dependent on him,” Mark said. “Outside of that, he was very close to Steven. Steve loved Steven very much. Virgie and I are blessed to have this tournament to give us time to spend with him and his family every year.”
The tournament will run Sept. 12-13. The games begin at 8 a.m. on Saturday morning and 1 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.
The entry form can be downloaded online at www.stevenshopefund.org/Tennis_Tournament. Participants can also pick up forms at the office of Hunter-Williams Insurance. Deadline for registrations is Wednesday, September 9. Drop entries off at Hunter-Williams Insurance at 837 6th Street, or fax them to 740-353-8818.
Hunter said the tennis tournament is for people of all skill levels. He explained that many of the contestants only perform to remember Steven and play tennis but once a year, on the date of the tournament.
The tennis tournament will be accepting sponsors until Tuesday. Hunter asks interested parties to call 740-354-3124.
Reach Joseph Pratt at 740-353-3101, ext. 1932, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.