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Lorain native Tony Richardson shares inspiring story from homeless youth to head of a major philanthropy

Tony Richardson becomes the next CEO of the Gund Foundation, knowing there are kids across Greater Cleveland who must dream beyond their circumstances

LORAIN, Ohio — Next month, Lorain native Tony Richardson will become CEO of the Gund Foundation. The achievement puts the 39-year-old at the helm of Northeast Ohio's second largest philanthropic organization.

It is no small feat, for a man who faced many challenges growing up. Recently, he took us back to his hometown, to share his story and its lesson: with a dream, anything is possible.      

"Hey good to see you!"

Anthony "Tony" Richardson can't go back to the old neighborhood, without seeing familiar faces. "When I'm in public spaces and share my story - it's a community story - it's not my story."

The next CEO of the Gund Foundation says he will lead using lessons from his past. He was born to a single mother, living in public housing on W. 24th Street in Lorain.

"This is ground zero for me. This is home. I lost a lot of people here too. To tragedies like murder, and things of that nature,"  Richardson recalled. 

There are other memories too. Good ones, of the community that grew from here. It would save him later on.

"We bartered. We looked out for one another. It wasn't uncommon for people to share their resources, whether it was food or cars or transportation," he recalled.

But the road got tougher when mother and son left for an apartment on E.32nd street. Her boyfriend joined them. Richardson recalls a day in 1993 when everything changed.

"His father knocks on the door and my mom started screaming. And we saw the newspaper the next day - 'Drug Deal Goes Sour.' And he was murdered in a neighboring town and my mom disappeared after that today the house stands as a reminder of where his family broke.

The ordeal left Richardson homeless and without his mom. He was just 10 years old.

"I lived with different friends, or relatives, or wherever I could find a place to live and eat. So I would go to school, fly under the radar, keep my grades up. Back then - if you didn't get in trouble, or weren't a bad kid there was no reason for anyone to inquire or look into what was going on at home," he shared, noting that his ordeal happened at the height of the crack cocaine epidemic in the '90's that plagued many American cities. 

Good grades, determination, and patchwork of community support got the Lorain student into Oberlin college, then law school at OSU.

"I would only take internships in the summer that would provide housing and meals because I didn't have anywhere to go," Richardson elaborated on what it took for him to make it through college and law school.

With law degree in hand – many opportunities came his way. Only one mattered: going home and serving the communities he cares about. From being elected to Lorain City Council, to his role as Executive Director of the Nord Foundation.

"So many people have been a apart of it and have supported me. And helped me to get to where I am today," he said.

Ready for the next chapter, at the Gund Foundation, Tony Richardson proudly brings with him a story to tell; one that is not his alone. It can belong to others too. 

"It shows you in any community, anything is possible."

   

*Editor's Note: The video in the layer above is from a previous unrelated report.