Food insecurity impacted 10.5 percent of the country in 2021 and Freestore Foodbank estimates that number is around 24 percent for Scioto County, but, luckily, the Steven A Hunter Hope Fund is constantly taking steps to alleviate that problem across southern Ohio.
The group has a single self-run fundraiser to contribute to its massive $180,000 annual budget and it is around the corner.
The popular annual fundraiser, the Steven A Hunter Hope Fund Tennis and Pickleball Tournament is in its 16th year and the group hopes to continue the legacy of its namesake, while raising funds in a day of sport and achievement.
The fund started after the loss of local Steven Hunter, son of Mark and Virgie Hunter, who was a figure of the community at an early age, known for frequently putting service before self. His father, Mark, once explained his desire to provide service through the Hope Fund by saying, “Most children spend their lives trying to fill their parents’ shoes. I will spend mine trying to fill his.”
Through the Hope Fund, the group spends nearly $200,000 feeding 1,300 children in 19 schools through weekend backpack meals, funding seven in-school pantries, providing clothing services in three schools, and maintaining a special fund for PHS as needed, such as eyeglasses.
While the pandemic produced funding for food pantries and providers, Mark explained that those funding sources have since dried up and the need is high.
“The pandemic money is gone and now the reverse is happening with inflation hitting food prices. We are seeing food pantry attendance rising and the cost is skyrocketing,” Mark explained.
The fundraising tournament is being organized by chairman Jay Daehler, who was a friend of Steven.
“Steven and I were really good buddies and played sports as we grew up,” Daehler said. “When Steven died, my dad came up with the idea of this fundraiser to raise money for the Hope Fund. We just want to get money for this organization, because of the stories Mark tells about kids sleeping on floors and going to bed hungry. These kids go to the same school as our kids and it is heartbreaking, so I continue to do it every year. This year is a good year, too; we have a good bit of participants.”
Mark said that the tournament is a perfect way to raise funding that honors his late son.
“Steven loved Tennis, as he did so many things, but he was really good at it and was going to play for Milligan in Tennessee,” Mark said. “He would be very, very happy with us trying to keep interest there. He also would have liked the Pickleball aspect as a way of staying innovative. He would also be ecstatic about it feeding kids, because he loved people and had a heart for helping people who need it.”
Hunter explained that Pickleball is a new element to the fundraiser.
“A lot of aging tennis players have since moved onto pickleball, so, a lot of people who played in our tennis tournament have phased out,” Mark said. “This is a great way to expand the player base and allow more people to participate.”
The tournament will be held September 10th, with the 11th reserved if needed. The players are expected to arrive by 8 a.m. to be given a breakdown of events. The tournament will be organized by novice and intermediate flights, with women’s, men’s and mixed doubles. The starting point is the Steven A Hunter Tennis Center at PHS. Teams will be sent to their respective locations.
Players can register online at Eventbrite, www.stevenshopefund.org, or by visiting Hunter Williams Insurance. The group is also taking business sponsorships to make the tournament a profitable endeavor.
For more information about the Hope Fund, or to make a contribution towards feeding a child, visit their website listed above.
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