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Fink Thinks: The Yankees Give HOPE

Photo/Catherine Cioffi

Photo/Catherine Cioffi

By: Zachary Finkelstein

NEW YORK – The New York Yankees are the team many love to hate. But during their next home stand, the Bombers will launch their second-annual HOPE Week (Helping Others Persevere and Excel) — a program so cool that even Red Sox Nation will have to doff their collective caps in approval.

On each day from Aug. 16-20, the defending World Series champions will reach out to an individual, family or organization worthy of recognition and support. Though each event will culminate at Yankee Stadium, outreach will often take place away from the ballpark and allow the team to personally connect with individuals while helping to highlight their success.

The coolest part of HOPE Week is that every player on the roster, as well as manager Joe Girardi and his coaching staff, will participate in the five-day event.

“HOPE Week was such an important week for our entire team during our championship run in 2009,” Girardi said earlier this year. “It’s great that the Yankees organization will once again allow us to reach out and reward five more inspiring stories during the 2010 season. It should be another special week.”

Last year’s HOPE Week started at the apartment of community heroes Marco and Jen Chiappetta. They are the founders of the “Patchwork of Young Leaders Society,” a non-profit mentorship program that helps transform underprivileged youth into future community leaders.

Hours before a game, Mariano Rivera, Robinson Cano, former Yankees outfielder Melky Cabrera and Girardi made a surprise visit to the Chiappettas’ home in Washington Heights, N.Y., for an unforgettable and motivational afternoon of mentoring.

The Yankees also encountered Tom Ellenson, Ranjit Seal and Melvin Williams, three inspirational members of society who have each overcome difficult disabilities.

Additionally, the organization held an anniversary celebration for former U.S. Army paratrooper and die-hard Yankees fan George Murray, his wife, Kim, and their 4-year-old son, Trason. A few weeks following his dream day at the Stadium, Mr. Murray lost his courageous fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). But thanks to the Yankees, he went out smiling.

The team also hosted a truly unique event at the Stadium — an overnight carnival for the participants of Camp Sundown, who suffer from a rare genetic disorder that precludes exposure to the sun or any sort of UV light. Into the wee hours of the morning, several Yankees players and executives mingled with kids wearing smiles bright enough to render the dimmed Yankee Stadium lights unnecessary.

Last year’s HOPE Week, which touched the lives of many, was lauded by President Barack Obama during the Yankees’ visit to the White House on April 26. President Obama may be a proud Chicago White Sox fan, but he was quick to admit that the Yankees and HOPE Week are world class in nature.

In a city that idolizes athletes, the Yankees will once again use HOPE Week to honor and recognize a handful of heroes. If you like feel-good stories, this is something you should closely follow.