Every night, once the kids are in bed, 32-year-old Frank Satullo goes into the basement of his Strongsville home, boots up his computer, and logs onto zonefreecleveland.com. It's not that the website is something he needs to hide -- quite the opposite. He created and maintains it with the purpose of providing a sense of family and community to Clevelanders.
"Originally, the site was to offer things to do that were free in the area," says Satullo. It's since blossomed into a neighborly exchange of recipes, stories, used goods, and hometown advice -- the kind of online community that professional dot.coms aspire to, but rarely achieve. "It's getting [people] out into things they might not have known Northeast Ohio offered: inexpensive, fun, creative things to do."
Then he started devising his own free activities, in the form of contests. His first was "Spot the Rock," a winter goose chase in which participants scoured area Metroparks nature centers for a specific decorated rock. For this summer, he created the Zone Free Cleveland Explorers' Challenge, a convoluted online trivia game, virtual maze, very real hike in the Metroparks, and essay contest. Participants have until August to navigate the online portion -- 100 pages in all. Once they've finished, the offline activities take place, and the winner will receive $100 in prizes, paid for out of Satullo's pocket.
"What I wanted to do was have something that requires no membership and no responsibility," explains Satullo. "You can play or you don't, or you can play and drop out."
By day a workaholic communications manager for a financial services firm, Satullo now finds himself in his basement most evenings building the website, which attracts an average of 6,000 users each month. In the future, Satullo plans to hold a region-wide scavenger hunt, but finding enough nights in the week has been a challenge. "I have a real slow computer, so it takes time, but it's been worth it."