Thursday, May 29, 2003

Bob Hope: Entertainer's local legacy

Today, on Bob Hope's 100th birthday, America salutes the versatile comedian who starred in radio, TV and movies - and entertained generations of U.S. troops overseas - during an active career that lasted well over 60 years. But Cincinnati has a special, local reason to celebrate Hope. It is a home to provide hope, a home he helped create and sustain.

The Bob Hope House was founded in 1962 as a group home for Hamilton County's troubled, delinquent or abandoned boys. Referred by the courts and social agencies, the boys ages 12-18 were offered "the opportunity to get a fresh start" at the Bob Hope House. Many took the opportunity, turned their lives around and became success stories.

The house was the brainchild of the late Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Benjamin S. Schwartz, who saw the need for such a group home. In 1962, he flew to Los Angeles, got an appointment with Hope, and persuaded him to lend his name to the new endeavor.

But Hope didn't stop there. For decades, he made fund-raising appearances in Cincinnati for the Bob Hope House, headlining shows, dinners, celebrity roasts, golf tournaments and more, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for the home. In 1985, for example, Hope brought Phyllis Diller, Andy Williams and Marie Osmond with him for a benefit show at Riverfront Stadium following a Reds-Pirates game. In 1988, he came to dedicate the home's Dolores Hope Chapel, named in his wife's honor, and did a benefit dinner at the Phoenix downtown.

Originally located behind Drake Hospital, Bob Hope House moved in 1976 to Miles Road in Springfield Township and expanded into a multi-building campus capable, at its peak, of housing 52 youngsters. It is now affiliated with the Children's Home of Cincinnati, still offering educational and residential services.

For most of America, the name Bob Hope is synonymous with entertainment. But to many in Cincinnati, the name Hope means just that - hope for troubled kids, the hope of a second chance. That's quite a legacy.

Happy Birthday, Bob Hope.

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