Foundation honors city teacher, coach - Catholic Courier

Foundation honors city teacher, coach

GREECE — Teaching and coaching in the inner city isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Scott Spino, on the other hand, wouldn’t have dreamt of being anywhere else.

All five years of Mr. Spino’s teaching career were spent at Rochester’s School 22, where he taught fourth grade. He had recently begun work on his doctorate, in the hopes of becoming a city-school principal. Much of his free time was devoted to coaching football and baseball youth teams from the Baden Street Settlement.

“We knew he wanted to be in the city. I think the kids just drew him there,” said Mr. Spino’s mother, Geri. “He was compassionate and dedicated to those kids.”

“He did so many positive things and was so well-liked. He had a bright future ahead of him,” added his father, Jerry.

A year has now gone by since that future was taken away in a matter of seconds.

On Oct. 31, 2004, Mr. Spino was walking on Alexander Street in Rochester when a friend’s hat fell into the road. As Mr. Spino stepped off the curb to retrieve it, he was hit by an oncoming car. Mr. Spino was taken to Strong Memorial Hospital where he died. The vehicle’s driver, Michael Warren, was eventually convicted of driving while intoxicated and is now serving five to 15 years in state prison.

In an effort to make something positive out of this tragedy, his family quickly formed a charity. Already, the Scott Spino Foundation has raised approximately $40,000 toward helping the kids whom he cherished.

A top goal of the foundation is a literacy program that provides children with books and enlists volunteers as guest readers. According to Geri Spino, some 200 people have already offered to volunteer. The foundation also provides scholarships for inner-city children to attend summer sports camps. Other planned initiatives include providing coats, hats, gloves and mittens for students at School 22, as well as an effort to physically improve the school’s surrounding neighborhood in northeast Rochester.

Among the many past and future fundraising events was a golf tournament this past July that raised $18,000. A second annual tournament has already been scheduled for July 17, 2006, at Lake Shore Country Club in Greece.

Additional reminders of Mr. Spino include a garden that was dedicated last May at School 22; a large portrait of him that was due to be erected this fall at the Rochester City School District offices; and the addition of his name to a new football scoreboard at Greece Arcadia High School. Also in the works are a memorial for innocent victims of drunken-driving accidents such as Mr. Spino, and the placement of a bench in his memory at the site where he was killed.

Mr. Spino graduated from Our Mother of Sorrows School and Greece Arcadia, where he was a four-year football, basketball and baseball athlete. He earned his bachelor’s degree from St. John Fisher College and his master’s from SUNY College at Geneseo. In addition to coaching at Baden Street, he coached junior varsity baseball for three years at Bishop Kearney High School.

His parents noted that his funeral Mass last Nov. 6 drew a huge crowd to Rochester’s Church of the Most Precious Blood and that accolades about him are still pouring in.

“Scott was a great kid, but we didn’t really know how great he was,” his mother said.

“Here’s a kid who’s 28 years old, and he had touched more lives,” his father added.

Their goal now is for lives to continue being positively affected. In fact, on Sept. 24 — which would have been Mr. Spino’s 29th birthday — family members spent their time painting the library at School 22.

“The pain never goes away, the sorrow never goes away. But the legacy, we’ve got to carry it on. It’s the only way in this tragedy I could survive,” Geri Spino said. “There is no way we could have gotten through this without all the support.”

Her husband expressed similar sentiments.

“It’s been tough. Our biggest goal is to keep his name out there … all the stuff we’re doing today, that keeps me going,” he said. “People say ‘how do you get up in the morning’ (but) I’ve got a lot to be thankful for.”

The foundation is promoted via an impressive Web site that displays numerous photographs and inspirational messages connected to Mr. Spino. The site was created and is maintained voluntarily by Mike Fuller, who knew Mr. Spino from high school. On the site there are bracelets for sale containing the inscription “Live a Life That Matters.” Mr. Spino’s sister Kristen, his only sibling, said she wears her bracelet “all the time. I never take it off.”

Also for sale are magnets bearing the message “Stop DWI — Sober Means Smart.” The Spinos said they seek tougher DWI laws, as well as for people to think twice before drinking and driving.

“I think the magnets are a step in the right direction,” Jerry Spino said. “We look at it like this: If we can save one life, we’ve done our job.”

The “Sober Means Smart” message carries another meaning: Geri Spino selected those three words because they form her son’s initials — Scott Michael Spino. The message is encased in the shape of a heart — and for another good reason.

“(It’s) because he’ll always be close to our hearts,” Kristen Spino said.

EDITOR’S NOTE: To learn more about the Scott Spino Foundation, visit www.scottspino.com. Donations may be made online or by mailing the Scott Spino Foundation Inc., 42 Kimbrook Drive, Rochester, NY 14612.

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