Here is a link to the original story on the team's website.
The first weeks in June were fun for fans of the New York Yankees organization with MiLB and MLB minor league and inter-league games vs. New York Mets organization. The New York Yankees were playing at Citi Field vs. the Mets. The St. Lucie Mets were playing the Tampa Tarpons at George M. Steinbrenner Field. While baseball games were being played the Yankees “A” Advanced Tampa Tarpons, Partnership and Community Activation team, including New York Yankees Foundation, was busy bringing H.O.P.E Week into the community.
Introduced in 2009, the H.O.P.E. Week Initiative (Helping Others Persevere & Excel) is rooted in the fundamental belief that acts of goodwill provide hope and encouragement to more than just the recipient of the gesture.
On each of five consecutive days the Yankees participating teams shines a spotlight on a different individual, family or organization worthy of public recognition and support. Each day is designed so honorees can share their inspirational stories with players, fans and the media.
At its core, HOPE Week is about people helping people. The one thing everybody has, no matter where they come from, what their financial situation is or what kind of skills they possess, is time. By involving players, coaches, Managers, General Managers and front office staff during the celebration of HOPE Week, the New York Yankees organization sends the message that everyone can give of themselves to make their community a better place.
Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal, New York Yankees General Partner/Vice Chair Person and President of Yankees Tampa Foundation opened H.O.P.E Week Initiative, first day, with Tampa Tarpons. “Jenny” along with minor league prospects Isiah Gilliam, Mandy Alvarez, Kellin Deglan, Ryan Lidge and Edwin Tordecilla visited the children of United Cerebral Palsy of Tampa Bay (UCP) www.ucptampa.org
During their time in the Yankees Player Development system, each of the minor league players oblige with participation in community service.
The first HOPE day provided a unique playdate for the young Tampa Tarpons players to greet children with degrees of physical disabilities. It provided time to play games and answer questions from “what is an infielder?” to “where are the pitchers?” “Jenny” used a rubber ball to play toss & catch with a small child in a wheel chair and demonstrated to other children how a catcher is positioned. She took time to tie shoe laces. I have pictures! The natural interaction with children by all from the HOPE team was enlightening. A child named “Jasper”, quiet, solitary, stood aside from the rest in the play room but was drawn to infielder Mandy Alvarez who slowly went one-on-one with the child. “Iechia”, the pre-school teacher observed and commented on the bond between the child and player.
Tampa Tarpons Mascot Blue is always along for fun and the children loved, hugged and tugged at his gigantic uniform. The children, families and staff were invited to attend the St. Lucie Mets vs. Tampa Tarpons game at George M. Steinbrenner Field. UCP of Tampa was provided tickets and food vouchers. On the field during pregame, United Cerebral Palsy of Tampa received $2,500.00 check.
Second Day of HOPE Week: Jennifer Steinbrenner, Tim Guidry, Administrator of Yankees Tampa Foundation, including staff of Partnership and Community Activation joined the Tampa Tarpon players; Hoy Jun Park, Keith Skinner, Dom Thompson-Williams, while visiting the Children’s Home Network www.childrenshomenetwork.org.
Mr. & Mrs. George M. Steinbrenner III, the New York Yankees Tampa Foundation throughout seasons remain sponsors of the Children’s Home with financial contribution, vans for transportation and a swimming pool. Mrs. Joan Z. Steinbrenner is a longtime board member for the Children’s Home, Inc.
The Children’s Home story began in 1892, when as recorded by history, Miss Carrie Hammerly began tending to orphaned and abandoned children. The Children’s Home recognizes more than 125 years of history in Tampa, Florida. With time, the Children’s Home has progressed. Situated on 88 acres, the Children’s Home features six cottages, administration building, playground and among others, an in campus school.
Kids Village. The main campus in Tampa is the site of the residential treatment and healing program. Children ages 6-17 reside in cottages and are provided with support for healing from abuse, neglect and abandonment.
Fostering Families. The Children’s Home program is exclusively committed to recruiting, preparing and supporting foster families to nurture children and mentor families as a whole. The program strives to keep siblings together, while providing safety and permanency through reunification and family restoration.
Kinship. This program is available to grandparents or other relative caregivers raising a family member’s child or children. Kinship offers support by helping families connect to resources, expand family support systems and reduce stress to promote family stability.
Adolescents in Motherhood (AIM). The program accepted its first teen mother at the Children’s Home in 2015. Since then it continues to provided services for teen mothers and expecting teens who are in foster care and has grown to include the newly-implemented Life-Skills initiatives.
SEEDS. The Supporting and Empowering Educational and Developmental Services program provides intervention services that work collaboratively with school, family members and community to ensure children are ready for kindergarten and reading on level by third grade.
At the Children’s Home we met youth that crossed sectors of our society, children separated from their parents because of neglect, drug abuse and unstable living conditions. The Children’s Home Network yearly provides care for thousands of children whose parents surrendered the well being of their children. I met two children who share multiple cultures; Hawai’ian/Puerto Rican, Americans. Although they share separate living quarters at the Children’s Home, the 16 year old girl keeps a watchful eye on her eight year old brother. “Kealohalani” wants to go home. She expressed interest in keeping up with language. She was promised a Hawai’ian dictionary and a Word Search book.
This HOPE day provided an insight for the team on the care of our children separated from their parents. It was a getting to know you, with a mix of conversation and laughter. The youth enjoyed a day being coached at hoops by the Tampa Tarpon players, followed by a casual game of baseball. The players had fun as they received instruction from the kids on how to tie dye teeshirts. The boys, girls and staff of counselors were presented a Tampa Tarpons baseball cap and invited with game ticket and food voucher to attend the evening St. Lucie Mets vs. Tampa Tarpons game at George M. Steinbrenner Field. During the pregame presentation The Children’s Home Network, Frankie Sasak, Operations Coordinator – Kids Village received a $2,500.00 contribution from the New York Yankees Foundation.
Third Day of HOPE Week: Initiative continued with a visit to Trinity Cafe where Tampa Tarpon pitchers; Albert Abreu, Justin Kamplain, Andrew Schwaab, Brian Trieglaff, Yoiber Marquina, Nestor Oronel and catcher Keith Skinner assisted with feeding the homeless.
The Partnership and Community Activation Manager, Jessica Lack and staff, including Tim Guidry and other volunteers joined at individual tables, assisting with requests during the lunch being served. More than a dozen children sat at tables with family members. We met a young father feeding a toddler and tending to children; Rickey 5 years old, Jeremiah 6, Noah 2 and a polite little girl who said she was 9 and her full first name was “Liyah Mikayla Lee”. She advised us her mother was not with them because she had a job interview. She chatted that her Dad would start work the next day and he promised them they would then have toys. Before lunch time had ended their mother arrived with good news that she got the job. The father spoke of bringing the children to Trinity Cafe while he and his wife struggled with providing meals. At the entrance table of Trinity Cafe is a sign which states “A Safe Place to Find Hope”.
Fourth Day of HOPE Week: George M. Steinbrenner Field is as an “anchor” in the community as it provided space to play and learn to four Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay; Town & County, Greco, Belmont Heights, Garcia Salesian. Over 100 youngsters representing the clubs participated in a “Baseball Camp Morning” with use of the main playing field, practice field, batting cages, clubhouse access to players’ ping pong table and just sitting in the dug out. The youth enjoyed pitching, fielding, hitting and running the bases as coached by Tampa Tarpons players Nick Green, Nick Nelson, Ryan Lidge, Matt Wivinis and Keith Skinner.
Tampa Tarpons, Assistant General Manager, Jeremy Ventura scheduled the morning of baseball for the youngsters, almost as structured as a regular season schedule of the Tampa Tarpon players. The Boys & Girls Clubs were identified with colored arm bands. Coordinated by club tee shirts, teams were guided into the various field activities through radio remote control by Jessica Lack and Tampa staff; Mary Kate Harvey and Marcella Costello. This was a most productive event.
In the Yankees Clubhouse the youth were curious as to where A-Rod, Aaron Judge, Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia, Don Mattingly, Bernie Williams had their lockers. The children sat on players’ stools and asked questions, “Yogi Berra was here, was he a catcher or a pitcher?”, “This is a special place”, “I can’t believe I’m sitting here”. “I am a big Yankees fan, can I take some dirt?” The boys spoke with Tarpon players of the teams where they play baseball and asked for advice as future major leaguers. They were proud of hitting home runs. A lone girl “Laylani” sat on the clubhouse couch and pointed at two “boy” name plates above lockers. She asked what the word “boy” meant. I explained they were the bat boy lockers. “When am I going to be one of those?” Sincere with her question, it was explained that she could be, was then given a brief overview of duties and walked out to the field to show her where the bat boys sat. Her final question was, “where would I change into my uniform?”
Seminole Hard Rock Tampa employees volunteered for the event with the Boys & Girls Clubs. We were introduced to Kristen Walker, Assistant Manager of Security who travels to Hard Rock sponsored events and Allen McBrayer, Director of Casino Player Development.
The Boys & Girls Clubs were provided volunteers Stefan Miller and De’Naysha Mullings from Bank of America’s Student Leadership Program “Making a Difference in the Community”.
At the conclusion of Baseball Camp Morning, the Boys & Girls Clubs were ushered into the Yankees Legends Pavillion for pizza, refreshments, including Boys & Girls Clubs/Hard Rock Cafe teeshirts. They were joined by Janine Valentin, Chief Programs Officer-Implementation of Program Development and Operations for the twenty-four Boys & Girls Clubs. During our conversation with the President of the Boys & Girls Clubs it was revealed that 78% of the children live below the Federal Poverty Level.
The Boys & Girls Clubs were provided four tickets per youth for that evening’s Tampa Tarpons game. During the pregame ceremony, Chris Letos, President of Boys & Girls Clubs was presented $2,500.00.
H.O.P.E. Week Initiative continued the following morning with a visit to George M. Steinbrenner Field by families from MacDill Air Force Base. Military members and children enjoyed the company of selected Tampa Tarpon Players. The families were provided tickets and food vouchers to attend evening game of Tampa Tarpons vs. Bradenton Marauders “A” Advanced affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
H.O.P.E Week Initiative concluded with “Starting Right, Now”. www.startingrighnow.org
“Students all come from diverse backgrounds with different stories, but we all have one thing in common – we are homeless.” How best to continue to describe the works of this program except with words from its founder, Vicki Sokolik and Chairman, Matthew Silverman.
Starting Right, Now (SRN) meets the needs of a growing population of homeless, unaccompanied youth. SRN intervenes with a uniquely holistic approach. We created a comprehensive curriculum to empower our youth. In addition to housing stability, food, academic support and life-skill classes each student is paired with a mentor who becomes their advocate, guiding them with emotional support. Each student has access to health insurance, food stamps, banking (financial literacy) and a network of support. We work with each student to propel them to the military, vocational training or higher education. SRN intercedes at a critical juncture, breaking the generational cycle of poverty. Unlike other organizations, we provide a deep, holistic and personal approach to end homelessness, one child at a time. We are not a hand-out, we are not a band-aid. We cure homelessness and achieve remarkable results. Join us. “Starting Right, Now”.
Starting Right, Now teens were invited to attend an afternoon Bradenton Marauders vs. Tampa Tarpons game and were provided tickets and food vouchers. During a pre-game presentation SRN received a $2,500.00 check. At game end, the teens and Tampa Tarpon players joined in a casual game of baseball on George M. Steinbrenner Field.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.