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Youth Pastor's Legacy Lives On

Three years following the death of Geno Roncone, the youth pastor for Highpoint Church, he's still impacting students for Christ.
Geno Roncone was 23 when a rare and aggressive cancer claimed his life in 2016. The youth pastor of Highpoint Church in Aurora, Colorado, Roncone’s infectious personality and vibrant Christianity drew people to him, but now he was gone.

When a deeply loved youth leader, such as Roncone, dies — especially at such a young age — it can profoundly impact the lives of those he or she touched. Roncone’s words, courage, and ministry made a lasting impact on the students in the church.

But time passes. Students graduate and go off to college. Younger students move up and new students enter the church and the youth program. Roncone’s impact on the spiritual lives of youth at the church naturally fades away.

Or so it might seem.

For Roncone’s memorial service, the family requested that in lieu of flowers or gifts, that donations be made to Highpoint Church’s Geno Strong Memorial Fund. The fund was to be used to give scholarships to teens wanting to attend the Rocky Mountain Ministry Network’s youth camp.

The scholarship idea was a wonderful gesture as Roncone was passionate about students attending camp. However, for a scholarship fund to work, enough money has to be given so scholarships can be awarded from the earned interest on the principal. Even if $10,000 was given and invested, that might only get two or three students to camp.

Recently, Gene Roncone, Geno’s father and the newly elected superintendent of the Rocky Mountain Ministry Network, issued a praise report with his wife, Rhonda.

“The Geno Strong Fund has already sent 44 teens to camp and will send an additional 25 this year,” Gene states. “Ninety percent of the fund’s annual interest sends teens to the RMMN youth camp and 10% goes back into the investment fund so it always grows.”

In his report, Gene notes that the Geno Strong Fund’s principal balance now stands at an impressive $79,349.

“When we first established the fund, Rhonda and I thought, Wouldn’t it be great if we could send one kid a year to camp? We had no idea it would be this successful,” Gene says. “The money is invested in church bonds — churches using it to build — so the Kingdom benefits all the way around.”

In a video message on the Geno Strong website, student ministries pastors Britton and Miranda Cottrell express their appreciation for the fund. “With the financial constraints on many families, a lot of students may not be able to go to camp without financial assistance and help,” Britton says. “So, the Geno Fund is a huge blessing to families that need that extra help.”

The website also features several students sharing their testimonies from last year’s camp. The impact of the camp is undeniable in their lives — from simply pursuing a stronger relationship with God and experiencing the presence of God for the first time to focusing on God’s purpose for life and being called into the ministry.

“Geno was never about being ‘center stage,’” Gene says, “but he would be thrilled to know that his passion for youth camp is being continued through this fund and totally excited about the impact camp is continuing to make on students’ lives.”

If the fund continues to grow as projected, within four years, it will be able to send 100 kids a year to camp. What’s more, 10 percent of the annual scholarships go to other churches.

“Seeing Geno’s passion for camp continuing to outlive him has been a real blessing for Rhonda and me,” Gene says. “It reminds me of the Scripture, Abel still speaks, even though he is dead (Hebrews 11:4).”

Dan Van Veen

Dan Van Veen is news editor of AG News. Prior to transitioning to AG News in 2001, Van Veen served as managing editor of AG U.S. Missions American Horizon magazine for five years. He attends Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri, where he and his wife, Lori, teach preschool Sunday School and 4- and 5-year-old Rainbows boys and girls on Wednesdays.