Spinato family reaches out to others with new foundation, golf tournament - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

Spinato family reaches out to others with new foundation, golf tournament

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Travis Roemhild is a reporter at the Ahwatukee Foothills News. Reach him at (480) 898-4903 or troemhild@ahwatukee.com

Posted: Tuesday, November 15, 2011 9:00 am | Updated: 3:15 pm, Sat Dec 22, 2012.

The Spinato family and its chain of Chicago-style pizzerias have grown up in the past 25 years or so, since the family name was first put on a sign.

The business that has been family-owned since the mid-'80s recently opened its fifth restaurant in Ahwatukee Foothills. Their focus will never waver from improving the business, but they now have a nonprofit foundation to build up.

Kenneth Spinato, founder of Spinato's Pizzeria, and his family recently started the Kenneth A. Spinato Foundation and will be hosting a golf tournament on Saturday to benefit two charities that they say represent the Spinato family name.

Proceeds from the event will benefit Phoenix Children's Hospital and Sentinels of Freedom. Kenneth's son, Anthony, said supporting veterans is crucial, especially since he comes from a long line of veterans.

"My dad was in Vietnam and my grandfather was in Normandy in World War II and was in Gen. Patton's army," he said. "I come from a family of veterans and I was really the only one who didn't go into the armed forces. This golf tournament is my little part to help."

Sentinels of Freedom is a nonprofit organization that, among other things, helps returning veterans with things like paying for medical bills upon their return stateside.

For the event, they selected local veteran Gabriel Garcia as the "sentinel" to support. Garcia just returned from his third tour in Iraq, and where he most recently lost an arm.

"For our sentinel, he is going to school and he has children so we want to help him with those associated costs," said Ron Baker, director of the golf tournament. "We do look at our armed forces person and what are his or her needs. In the past, we were able to provide housing for someone for two years as they got back on their feet."

The elder Spinato, along with his wife and daughter, Nicole, first moved to Phoenix in 1974. He and a partner opened up a local branch of a different pizzeria chain. It wasn't until 10 years later that he bought them out and renamed the first of five Spinato's Pizzerias.

Anthony Spinato said growing up around his father's pizzeria, he and his sister, who now have taken over the family business, didn't ever see themselves accepting the management roles at first. It was after they went out into the job world that they realized how unique their family was in offering the "Spinato Experience."

"There was a difference in the connections and interactions with guests," Anthony said. "The guests come in week after week to have a great meal and see my family. We know that it's not just about the pizza, it's about the experience and the warmth. My mom was the same way with people in our restaurant, like if they came in our house."

Anthony himself just became a father and said they chose Phoenix Children's Hospital to help because it went along with the theme of helping families.

"Sixty percent of children who go to PCH, their parents don't have enough money for the procedure," he said. "For my dad, me and my sister, it was an easy decision to go with them. It is a huge soft spot in all of our hearts and we want to help as many kids in need as possible."

Anthony said the Spinato family has always done things like food and monetary donations, but it wasn't until the business had grown and provided extra free time that they were able to start a nonprofit foundation.

"It was something that we had been thinking about and talking about for many years, but just never had the ability and never had time to put into it," he said. "My dad being in family business, it's hard to do a lot. We're at work 50, 60, 70 hours per week, but at the same time we always want to do community involvement."

They hope to raise more than $20,000 for the tournament and still have several four-some spots available. The Kenneth Spinato Golf Classic will take place at the Foothills Golf Club, 2201 E. Clubhouse Drive, on Nov. 19. People can register online at www. Kennethaspinatofoundation.org. The entry fee is $150 per player and includes a day of golf, a $50 Spinato's Pizzeria gift certificate, lunch and goodie bag. Awards will be given for the first, second and third place teams, the longest drive, closest to the pin and hole-in-one. There will also be raffle prizes and silent auction items to benefit the selected organizations.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or troemhild@ahwatukee.com

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