Meyer speaks at Covelli Centre

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It was a big venue for a big-time event.

Nearly 1,000 people packed the Covelli Centre Monday night for the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley’s “Champions Among Us” dinner and fundraiser. The keynote speaker was Ohio State University head football coach and Ashtabula native Urban Meyer, who made his first public appearance in the area since being tapped to lead the Buckeyes.

“I’m honored to be here. It’s a great cause. I am honored to come back to Northeast Ohio,” Meyer said.

The event is the United Way’s biggest fundraiser of the year.

“Our goal is to raise $100,000 tonight. All the money stays here in the Valley. It goes to support people in need. It’ll support children, focus on education, income, health and crisis services,” said Bob Hannon, president of the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley.

The “Champions Among Us” event was held for the first time at the Covelli Centre.

Sam Covelli, CEO and president of Covelli Enterprises, and his wife Caryn recently made a $10 million donation to the OSU Department of Athletics. Hannon said the Covelli’s were instrumental in getting Urban Meyer to be the event’s keynote speaker.

“He’s been so nice to give of his time. I mean, yeah, it’s such a fantastic charity, the United Way, and he recognized that also,” Sam Covelli said.

The “Champions Among Us” event not only gives the United Way a big boost, but also lets them show donors all the great work they’re doing in the community.

“People don’t realize that the United Way gives to so many individual charities and that’s what’s so important because these individual charities don’t have the power to raise money like the United Way does,” said State Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman.

“Right now, our Success by Six program is going. There are 600 kids in the Mahoning Valley that are going to be better prepared for kindergarten because our donors and the people that invest with us. We’re looking for people that want to be partners, not just donors, so we have to get the message out over and over with what we’re doing with the money,” Hannon said.

Hannon said they keep trying to add to the event year after year, but it will be tough to top this one in 2014.

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