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April 2, 2014

The Long Game: Playing Golf and Battling Cancer Drives Donor’s Life

For Food & Friends Board Member Tony Russo, golf has a funny way of imitating real life. At a young age, he learned that sometimes you have bad shots but you have to play the ball no matter where it lands.

Board Member Tony Russo supports Food & Friends because we provide
the same amount of support his family did when he had cancer.
The son of a United States congressman, Tony frequently played golf with his father, Congressman Marty Russo, and his fathers’ friends (including Vice President Joe Biden) as a way to spend quality time together.

“My ultimate dream was to be a pro golfer,” says Tony. “I grew up always wanting to do good things and to always get better.”

Tony’s love of golf and his determined, positive attitude have steered him throughout his life. This drive has gotten him through some challenging times in his life, but none more so than facing cancer.

After attending the University of Florida on a full-ride golf scholarship and playing professional golf in Arizona, Tony enrolled in law school at DePaul University in Chicago. Unfortunately in his third year, childhood leukemia temporarily derailed his plans.

"Until that point, and even today, I’ve never had a serious operation or even a broken bone,” says Tony. “I wasn’t well enough to play golf and even the school tried to prevent me from registering for classes. I can remember taking a test and my hands were shaking so bad from the rough treatment.”

With the support of his family and close friends, Tony not only won his battle with cancer but graduated from law school.

“I couldn’t have done it without my support system. Some days, I didn’t think I was going to make it through this, but I went day by day focusing on what was right in front of me.”

Vice President Joe Biden was one of many who helped
Tony through his battle with cancer.
Tony is extremely grateful for having been given a second chance at life, and feels it is important to pay it forward. He started supporting Food & Friends because we provide the same amount of support and care as his family did when he was sick. Not only does Tony personally support Food & Friends as a donor and member of the Board of Directors, but he is our champion in acquiring support from his company, T-Mobile.

Food & Friends clients not only need critical nutrition, but the hope and belief that people in the community care for them. Tony’s support demonstrates to our clients that they are not alone.

“I have an idea of what Food & Friends’ clients are going through. Thankfully, we [Food & Friends] are there to deliver meals and the support network that many of them are missing.”

Tony encourages everyone that is not currently giving to take the first step no matter how big or small it may be.

“Whether as an individual or as a company, giving back to the community is a win-win for everyone involved.”

Because just like in the game of golf, winning is impossible if you never start the game.

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