Big Donation Brings $400,000 Fundraising Campaign Across Home Plate
An Oregon charitable foundation with ties to a former Youngstown resident has granted $175,000 to the Robinson-Shuba Commemorative Statue project, bringing a successful conclusion to the statue fundraising campaign.
The Marie Lamfrom Charitable Foundation, based in Wilsonville, Ore., near Portland, approved the grant after its co-founder, Sally Bany, watched a CBS Sunday Morning feature story on the statue in September.
“It is so important to build memorials to people and events that bring Americans together,” Bany said. “The 1946 handshake of Jackie Robinson and George Shuba was such an important moment in our nation’s history and truly reflects the best of us. We were so excited to learn about the handshake and even more pleased to learn we could play a role in making sure the memorial statue will become a reality. Our hope is that this statue reminds generations of Americans about the importance of reaching across our racial differences to advance equality, fairness and unity.”
Ernie Brown, co-chair of the statue project committee, said that the Marie Lamfrom Charitable Foundation’s executive director, Rachael Sneddon, contacted the committee through its website after watching the September 27 CBS broadcast and asked about providing whatever funding was needed to complete the statue campaign. The grant brings total donations beyond the committee’s $400,000 goal. Requests to other sources for statue funding have been withdrawn.
“We are thrilled that a group we never even heard of shares our mindset about this statue and the values it reflects and has stepped up with such a tremendous gift – and has a Youngstown connection,” Brown said. “We appreciate the generosity of the Marie Lamfrom Charitable Foundation and look forward to recognizing its support with a permanent designation at the statue site.
“We’re grateful for all of the support this statue has received – from the initial $10 online donation from Hubbard to this $175,000 grant from Oregon and everything in between.”
The Robinson-Shuba Commemorative Statue will celebrate the handshake on April 18, 1946 of Robinson, the first African American allowed to compete in mainstream professional baseball, and George Shuba, his white teammate from Youngstown. The handshake followed a three-run homer by Robinson in his debut game with the Montreal Royals, a minor league affiliate of Major League Baseball’s Brooklyn Dodgers. When neither of the teammates who scored on Robinson’s homer waited at home plate to congratulate him, Shuba, the on-deck batter, stepped up to shake his hand. That handshake, captured in photographs, became known as “a handshake for the century,” as it marked the start of racial integration of professional baseball and, eventually, much of American life.
“George Shuba’s simple but profound gesture of acceptance reflected his Youngstown upbringing and Youngstown values,” said Greg Gulas, another co-chair of the project committee. “As a result, Youngstowners have shared the story of that handshake with pride for decades. Now we’re so excited about this moment being memorialized with a huge, beautiful bronze statue in downtown Youngstown. We have been blown away by the generosity of the Marie Lamfrom Charitable Foundation and the many other foundations, groups and individuals who have supported this campaign.”
The Marie Lamfrom Charitable Foundation is named for Bany’s grandmother, Marie Lamfrom, who was born and raised in Germany, served as a nurse in World War I and fled to the United States in the 1930s after the Nazis came to power. Fondly known as “Bluebird,” Lamfrom was involved in Girl Scouts in Oregon for more than 44 years as a troop leader, board member and delegate to the national convention. She is lovingly remembered for her 20-year commitment to her Girl Scout troop at the Shriners Hospital for Children in Portland. She also established a similar troop at Providence Hospital, and her rich legacy of Girl Scouting is now in its fourth generation.
Bany’s father, Neal Boyle, lived in Youngstown as a child before attending the University of Arizona where he met his future wife, Gert Lamfrom, Marie’s daughter.
“This foundation’s link to Youngstown is the latest in a series of spontaneous Youngstown connections that have advanced the success of this project,” said Eric Planey, a statue committee member and former Youngstown resident who has coordinated much of the effort from his home in New Hamburg, New York.
Another key Youngstown tie-in was the original spark for the statue — Planey’s conversation in Virginia with his niece’s softball coach, also a former Youngstowner. When the coach learned of Planey’s roots, he related the story of the Robinson-Shuba handshake.
Another fortuitous connection was a former Youngstown-area resident who works for Major League Baseball and connected Planey with Jackie Robinson’s family. That opened the door for permission from the Robinsons to use Jackie’s name and likeness in the statue.
Plans call for the Robinson-Shuba statue to be dedicated in Wean Park on April 18, 2021, the 75th anniversary of the historic handshake. The statue will stand nearly 7 feet tall above its base and will be surrounded by seating to support programming about racial equality. BSHM Architects, a Youngstown-based firm, has donated the design work for the memorial.
Marc Mellon, a Connecticut sculptor known for his bronze works honoring Pope John Paul II, Presidents George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama and many prominent athletes, recently completed the statue model. The model will be used to build the mold for casting the statue at the Bedi Makky Art Foundry in Brooklyn, N.Y., which is known worldwide for crafting the Iwo Jima Memorial near Washington, D.C., and the Charging Bull in the New York financial district.
About the Robinson-Shuba Commemorative Statue
The Robinson-Shuba Commemorative Statue will be a monument to racial equality as symbolized by the handshake of Jackie Robinson and George Shuba on April 18, 1946. The statue campaign recently completed its $400,000 fundraising campaign. The Economic Action Group, a Youngstown-based nonprofit that promotes development in the city, has served as the project’s fiscal agent since the campaign began in late 2019. More information about the statue is available at www.robinsonshuba.org.
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Photo caption: Sally Bany is co-founder of the Marie Lamfrom Charitable Foundation.