MONMOUTH COUNTY, NJ: October 5th, 2019 marked 17 years ago that #66, Victor Zando, a vibrant, full of life, active young man passed suddenly from a heart attack, while out for his daily run. He had the beautiful family he had always prayed for. His wife had given birth just 15 months prior to their daughter and the happy family of 3 were living their dream.
That life was suddenly and tragically taken from them. Victor Zando left a very large void. He was a man who lived life with great faith, focused on family and community. He was and is deeply loved by so many family members and friends. They put their love for Victor into action shortly after he passed, establishing The Victor Zando Foundation (VZF) in January of 2003.
"The idea was the brainchild of Vic’s best friend and brother in law Tom Ramhold. Tom approached my husband, Brian, and I with a very simple thought…”let’s do some good in Vic’s name. With that simple sentence, the VZF was born". said Victor's sister, Dorothea Zando Laux. They just held their annual VZF fundraiser at Monmouth Racetrack at the end of August. All gathered to celebrate Victor's life at picnic area #3, which for the day is transformed into #66, Victor's number.
Continuing in the spirit of the values in which the Victor Zando Foundation was built upon: Faith, Family, Education and Community. VZF supports and promotes educational excellence and community engagement through scholarship opportunities, tuition assistance, mentorship and community service programs.
The Victor Zando Foundation provides tuition assistance to Catholic middle and high school students who are experiencing financial challenges. Laux continues, "We foster success for students by promoting education, leadership and mentorship with the hope that they will in turn have a positive impact on their generation and beyond. We serve and support select community initiatives that will enhance the quality of life for those in need."
The Foundation's vision is to equip and inspire students through a solid faith-based education to thrive and to achieve their highest potential; to serve and support community service programs that positively impact the quality of life for those in need.
Laux continues, "So, very simply, we provide tuition assistance and memorial scholarships to students in Catholic schools and we participate in various community service programs – many of which are student-lead initiatives. Since our inception, we have partnered with 10 schools in New Jersey and in New York. Our goal is to assist families having challenges meeting the demands of tuition – especially due to an illness, death, loss of employment, etc."
The VZF refers to their tuition assistance program as the Starfish Program. This was based on the following story:
The Story of the Starfish:
A young man walked along a beach full of starfish, picked them up one by one and threw them back into the ocean. When someone pointed out that the beach was miles long, full of starfish, and the man could not possibly make a difference, he picked up one more starfish and replied, “I can make a difference to this one".
Laux comments, "I personally find so much inspiration from that story - as no one can make a difference to everyone, but our little foundation has made a difference in the lives of many!! We have such an amazing dedicated team that has helped over 100 students through our Starfish Program!! It is incredibly rewarding to receive a thank you note from one of our “starfish”. These students are so appreciative and will always respond with gratitude and grace. They will offer to pray for Victor and to keep working hard in the classroom and at their chosen sport. They will tell us how proud they want the foundation to be of them. It is so inspiring to read these notes! It makes all of our hard work worth while!"
Victor Zando was an athlete and a fierce competitor. At 5’9”, he managed to secure a spot as a starting offensive lineman on championship teams at Msgr. Farrell High School in the 1970s. He was known as a gentleman both on and off the field and wore the #66. Along with the Miraculous Medal that his Grandmother gave him, Victor wore his #66 around his neck every day on a chain. He wore the #66 all though his football career and continued to wear it when he played softball (which he did for 27 years on Staten Isand).
"The whole family and his friends often wear the #66 as an honor to him. It may be a tattoo or a piece of jewelry, but we all wear it. So, at our outings, you will see the entire group with #66 on the back of their tee shirts! 66 is our sign that he is with us. My brother was wonderful – so much to say about him. He was a great friend, father, brother, son, cousin, husband, nephew... He loved the simple things in life – a day at the track, church on Saturday night and softball on Sundays followed by a family dinner." said Laux.
Victor married, Laura Parrino, when he was in his 40s and they were blessed with his only child, Victoria. Sadly, she was 15 months old when he died. Victoria is now a freshman at Penn State University.
Over the years VZF has supported many projects; including:
• Established the Uniform Fund – Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, Asbury Park, NJ
• Gift cards for 100+ families effected by Hurricane Sandy, PS 41, Staten Island, NY
• Blankets Warming Hearts Project, Long Island, NY and NJ
• Christmas gift bags for LunchBreak of Red Bank, NJ – average 200 gift bags each year
• Operation Sleigh Bells, Family and Children’s Services, Monmouth County, NJ – adopting families at Christmas and providing them with presents that are on their lists – including gifts for parents!
• Heavenly Hope Fun Day, Mater Dei Prep, Middletown, NJ – this student-run project brings special-needs children on to the MDP campus for a day of rides, games an fund!
• St. Anthony’s Food Pantry, Long Island, NY
• Drive a way Parkinsons – helping to raise funds for research
• Supporting Camp Jinka - art camp for children who have lost parents
VZF holds one-- sometimes two-- fundraisers per year. The main fundraising event of 2019 was the Saturday of Labor Day weekend – August 31, 2019. VZF has been holding this annual event at Monmouth Park Racetrack for the last 12 consecutive years. Prior to Monmouth, fundraisers were held at Belmont Park in Elmont NY. VZF has also hosted a beautiful wine tasting at Casa Belvedere – the Italian Institute on Staten Island.
For more information about the Victor Zando Foundation, or to make a donation visit: victorzandofoundation.org
P.O. Box 303, Middletown, NJ 07748
The board consists of family and friends closest to Victor:
Thomas Ramhold, President and Founder
Dorothea Zando Laux, Executive Vice President and Treasurer
Martin Hicks, Secretary
Gabriella Liotta, Vice President
Brian Laux, Vice President
Thomas Hicks, Vice President
Laura Zando, Vice President