A very special group of people are honored all week by the New York Yankees during HOPE Week. HOPE stands for Helping Others Persevere & Excel. This is not only a great story but a great week for the players and the people who get treated like stars. Sports teams get asked for tours, tickets and autographs and they try to oblige when they can, but the Yankees have taken their spirit of giving to the next level. Five special visits in five days to create a movement of goodwill as they spread cheer on and off the field.
The week kicks off with a visit to 13-year old Jorge Grajales. His backyard pool party this year is anything but normal as Yankees players dive into his pool and share this special day with Jorge. Yankee’s outfielder, Nick Swisher, says, “As cool as it might be for him to meet us, it’s way cooler for us to meet him.” Jorge had both his arms and legs amputated as a young child in Panama due to an infection, but his disability has not held him back as walks onto the field at Yankee Stadium and throws the first pitch of the game.
Among the other honorees are a group of special needs kids from an organization called Beautiful People. After the game, the roles are reversed and the players become the fans as they cheer on the Beautiful People. A special game is played as smiles and laughter fill the stadium. Derek Jeter says, “This puts things in perspective…there are bigger things in the world.”
A diehard Yankees fan is Jane Lang. She has been blind since birth and receives a private escort to the stadium. It’s usually just Jane and her guide dog Clipper who take the two-hour ride via public transportation when she visits the ball park, but this week the Yankees escort her the whole way. Her enthusiasm is contagious as she enters the stadium. She has only experienced the game with her ears, but during HOPE Week, she gets to feel the game as well. Jane is introduced to the players whom she greets with hugs and enthusiasm. As she touches their faces, you would think that Jane has been reunited with long-lost family. The emotion is undeniable as she is walked across home plate. Jane says she was afraid to pinch herself because she thought for sure she would wake up.
There is no doubt that each honoree was given a special gift that day. They were recognized as people and given hope that love and kindness truly do exist.