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Ron Zappolo gives back to community that gave so much to him

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(Editor’s note: All this week, we’re taking a look back at the legendary career of FOX 31 Denver anchor Ron Zappolo, who is stepping down this Friday after a 36 year on-air career in Denver. In this story, a look at Ron’s community involvement)

DENVER -- We all know how much the Denver community loves Ron Zappolo.  Just listen to our own mayor:

“I wanted to be Ron Zappolo,” said Mayor Michael Hancock, who actually studied Zappolo back in college, when Hancock was hoping to go into broadcasting.

“The professor or chair of the department said you must pick someone that you model and study tapes and watch their style, and from there you'll grow your own style.  And Ron Zappolo was who I chose.  Because I grew up watching him and trusting him a great deal, and I had volumes of Ron Zappolo tapes, and I would study his style, his body language, his comfort, his truthfulness,” Hancock said.

All those qualities have endeared Ron to all of us over the last 36 years, including some of the big news makers he covered.  Like Federico Pena, Denver’s former mayor.

“I think even newcomers to this city even recognize him as a real icon,” Pena said.

Dick Lamm, former Colorado governor, agrees.

“People really like him, they relate to him and they trust his judgment,” Lamm said.

With Ron Zappolo, what you see is what you get.

“He's just a down to earth nice guy.  And I think a lot of people think, people on TV, personalities like Ron, they're not going to be like that in person.  Ron is a great guy in person,” said Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey, a long-time Zappolo friend.

But viewers probably don't know exactly how great a guy he is, because Ron would never brag about it.  But Jackie Propernick is glad to.  She helps run The Adoption Exchange.

“The commitment has been just incredible from the entire Zappolo family,” Propernick said.

The Adoption Exchange is a local charity that helps find loving homes for kids who need them.

She says, for years, Ron and his wife have always been there when they're needed.  From emceeing big events, to hosting meetings and planning fundraisers.

“It's just meant so much, because it's just very clear that this is a family that knows how important a family is, and this is a family that shares our belief that every child ought to have that.  Every child deserves to have a loving and safe family,” Propernick said.

“When you see kids have a chance to get a shot at a good life - that`s what it`s all about,” Zappolo added.

Adoption is an issue that's close to Ron's heart.  In part because of his wife Nastassja's childhood.

“She was adopted, never really had any parents, grew up in an orphanage, and a couple of foster homes,” Zappolo said.

In fact, Ron remembers an Adoption Exchange event his wife spoke at where she talked about her childhood.  And that's when he knew, he had to do something to help other kids.

“She got up and told her story to this group of 100 people, and all the sudden there wasn`t a dry eye in the house, and I thought I gotta really get involved in this, and I did in a small way,” Zappolo said.

But Ron never does anything in a small way - as those who know him are aware.  Like those of you viewers - who've welcomed his big personality into your homes for the last 36 years.  And those people he's quietly - by giving back to the community that gave him so much.

TOMORROW NIGHT: Be sure to join us for a half-hour look back at Ron’s amazing career.  “Celebrating Ron,” Friday night at 9:30 on FOX 31 Denver.