By Linda Dillman
Tony Sobony believes in taking on cancer with pie in the face humor by helping donors raise money through American Pie Party fundraisers to battle the disease.
In the late 1970s, Sobony was a teacher at Hamilton Township High School when he asked his mentor and fellow teacher, Carol Lowe, “What should I do? I am not sure if I want to teach the rest of my life. She replied, ‘Specialize in something.’”
When he went home that night and watched “The Tonight Show’s” Johnny Carson describe humor as often being the extreme of something, Sobony was diagnosed with throat cancer five years ago and skin cancer a few months ago. Also, his father passed away from lung cancer.
Sobony believes God planted the seed that would become the American Pie Party.
“A pie in the face is the extreme physical comedy act,” said Sobony. “It is funny, therapeutic, and sometimes magic. Cancer is the extreme physical tragedy. It hurts in many ways and it kills. By combining the laughter of pies in the face and the sorrow of cancer, unlimited amounts of money can be raised for the war on cancer. My friend Carol later passed away from breast cancer. Now I am a frustrated fundraiser.”
Sobony said people have donated more than $100,000 over the years through pie party events where—in non-pandemic years—individuals line up with a cream-filled pie plate to throw at designated recipients.
“We have held pie parties at Columbus City Hall, the Statehouse lawn, parking lots, backyards, living rooms, churches, schools, and restaurants,” said Sobony. “We recruit celebrity PiePals—people who celebrate life—to raise funds and accept a whipped creme paper plate pie in the face from a cancer survivor, preferably. On National Cancer Survivor Day, the first Sunday in June, we hold SpeedPie. Approximately 600 pies are tossed at me in a minute. I have accumulated over 70,000 in 40 years with notarized signatures.”
Pie parties are also held at birthday parties, family reunions, auctions where participants can bid for the opportunity to throw a pie in the face, and a Human Checkers game where whoever gets jumped gets a pie in the face and if you get “kinged,” you get to throw a pie at anyone.
Five years ago, American Pie Party TAG was launched with the premise that 90 percent of the money raised during an event goes to a celebrity’s chosen cancer agency. Since the pandemic hit, the organization started promoting Virtual Pie Party TAG to benefit children’s families who are going through treatment.
“We direct the funds for co-pays, medications, and supplies,” said Sobony. “With Virtual Pie Party TAG, we ask the volunteer to video the event and TAG another with the tagline, ‘What’s the cure for cancer? Tag! You Are It’ We hope the concept goes viral.”
A fish fry benefitting the American Pie Party is scheduled on May 5, from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. at River Vista Health and Wellness, 1599 Alum Creek Drive, Columbus. This event is sponsored by StoryPoint Senior Living in Grove City, River Vista, Bickford Senior Living of Bexley, and Oasis Senior Advisors. People can pre-order meals ($10) or donate at the event.
“The American Pie Party is a 501c3, quintessential, diamond in the rough, faith-based nonprofit that fights cancer with Pie-in-the-Face humor,” said Sobony. “Joe Virgin, real estate agent with E-Merge is scheduled to play Virtual Pie Party TAG in March, probably Pi Day, (3.14). StoryPoint Senior Community will have an American Pie Party on March 15 and we are inviting Youth Ministers of various local churches to play American Pie Party TAG in April.”
For information, visit www.theamericanpieparty.org or on Facebook at TheAmericanPieParty.